Note 4: Human rights

Young girl operating a small device (photo)

We’re proud to have extended our partnership with Plan International Nederland for another year. With our support, young people growing up in challenging circumstances can bridge the gap between overcoming the daily struggles they face and being able to realize their dreams.

We understand that through our roles as employer, manufacturer, business partner and member of many communities, we can potentially both directly and indirectly impact the lives of millions of people.

While we’re committed to making a positive impact through our products and programs, we’re also aware of the potential negative impact we may cause, contribute to, or be linked to.

We recognize the responsibility we have to respect the human rights of people in our value chain and the influence we can have on bringing about improvements. As part of our core values of safety, integrity and sustainability, we’re committed to respecting human rights as set out in the International Bill of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. At the same time, we expect all our business partners to respect human rights and apply equivalent principles, seeking to support them actively in their implementation where needed.

Salient human rights issues

While we respect and treat all human rights equally, we’ve prioritized certain activities based on risk. These priorities were established following internal and external stakeholder engagement. They are:

  1. Health and safety in our value chain
    The health and safety of our people and those we work with, or offer our products to, is our first priority. We have a robust health and safety program, which is explained in Note 2. Through our priority substance program (see Note 8), we screen thousands of raw materials. We’ve also initiated due diligence on the impact we have on the communities around our sites.
  2. Working conditions for our employees
    We’re committed to providing good working conditions for our employees and those working at, or visiting, our sites. We’ve conducted due diligence and issued company-wide standards for working hours, which are being implemented throughout the organization. We’ve also conducted due diligence on the compensation we offer our employees versus international living wage standards for the ten high risk countries. The initial results show that while we comply with legal requirements, there are certain gaps between our compensation and international living wage standards that merit further due diligence. This work is ongoing.
  3. Discrimination and harassment
    We’re committed to offering a working environment in which people feel treated with dignity and respect, and where we foster diversity and inclusion (see Note 1). We have clear rules and apply strict consequence management in case of violation of these rules. In 2019, we launched a global training program for all our employees on diversity and unconscious bias. In 2020, this roll-out continued. The e-learnings that are part of this program had a completion rate of 78% of all online employees (including contractors) in 2020. For offline employees, the roll-out of face-to-face workshops was unfortunately paused due to the pandemic.
  4. Modern slavery
    We have zero tolerance for modern slavery, such as child labor or forced labor, and conduct relevant due diligence into our supply chain. We identified cobalt, mica minerals and tin as raw materials possibly impacting human rights in our supply chain – in particular regarding health and safety, working conditions and modern slavery. These materials are used in the manufacture of some additives, pigments, resins and tin packaging material we source. In the case of mica minerals, we continued to collaborate with suppliers to track their entire supply chain back to the mines of origin and monitored their value chain to ensure a responsible and sustainable mica supply chain. For cobalt and tin, we surveyed all 120 identified suppliers, using templates from the Responsible Minerals Initiative. Of those suppliers who confirmed using high risk materials necessary to the functionality of the product, 81% disclosed their smelters. In total, 57% of these smelters are either listed as active or conformant smelters in the Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP). Suppliers with a “conflict free statement”, but who didn’t disclose the smelters in their supply chain, have not been included in this percentage, since our due diligence is based on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains. See our website for more on conflict minerals.

EcoVadis recognition

Human rights – EcoVadis (emblem)

We’re proud to have been awarded the EcoVadis Platinum Medal in recognition of our commitment to acting responsibly by integrating social and environmental concerns into our business operations. The comprehensive methodology considers four key pillars that align with our People. Planet. Paint. approach to sustainable business: Environment; Labor and Human Rights; Ethics; and Sustainable Procurement. We further improved in Labor and Human Rights and scored highly in the other pillars. We also continue to demonstrate our leading position in other industry rankings, such as Sustainalytics and MSCI (see the Our approach to sustainable business section).

Reprioritizing salient human rights issues

COVID-19 had a major social impact across the globe. See the Business as unusual Case study for an overview of how our efforts to address the social effects of the pandemic were carried out in a responsible manner.

The virus has introduced a new reality and potentially additional human rights risks that we need to address across our value chain. As a result, and in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles to continuously assess a company’s salient human rights issues, we have reassessed our current internal salient human rights issues this year. Multiple interviews, workshops and data analysis have been carried out to understand the current human rights risks from an internal perspective. We concluded that our salient human rights issues have remained the same, but we gained insight into which part(s) of the value chain the highest risks occur and should have our first focus. In the first quarter of 2021, we’ll validate our findings with external stakeholders and finalize our assessment of salient human rights issues from 2021 onwards.