Why do we need a Referential specific to human rights?

“The Group has identified respect for others as one of its fundamental ethical principles. For this reason, it places particular emphasis in each of its activities on respect for the spirit and letter of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

["Ethics in Practice" guidelines, November 2009 edition, pg.28]


  • Ensuring the effective implementation of the Group’s commitments

The Referential describes the procedure for implementing the ethical principle “Respecting others”, reaffirms the Group’s commitments and expands on the guidelines presented in the Group’s ethical documents.
It aims to provide the means to effectively implement these commitments, by providing for the establishment of appropriate operational processes.
It complements the Group’s existing actions related to the respect for human rights.


  • Respond to the changing international environment

The Guiding Principles of the United Nations on business and human rights (2011) set forth the principle of a corporate responsibility to respect human rights and set out operational recommendations for companies. These principles are the subject of international consensus and are recognized by stakeholders as the international framework for companies.
The human rights Referential is based on the Guiding Principles and aims to implement the recommendations contained within it by formalizing an overarching process for assessing human rights risks (due diligence process). It therefore meets the increasing expectations of the Group’s stakeholders.

Who is it for?

This Referential is primarily intended for managers, ethics officers and experts, who need to acquaint themselves with the content and ensure that the conditions for its implementation in their entities are met.

What are the Group’s commitments in relation to human rights?

  • Respect for all internationally recognized human rights

The first Group’s commitment in relation to human rights is “to carry out its activities in accordance with internationally recognized human rights wherever it operates”.

The Group thus refers to international standards relating to the protection and defense of human rights, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its associated Covenants and Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

It ensures that its activities are conducted in accordance with the highest standards of protection of human rights (national laws or international standards).

It exercises particular vigilance in countries deemed as “high risk” in terms of human rights.


  • Specific commitments, linked to the group’s activities
    • The Group ensures compliance with the fundamental rights of its employees, as defined by the ILO standards.
    • It rejects all forms of harassment and violence in the workplace and offers its employees a work environment that is respectful of their individual rights and their privacy.
    • It ensures that its activities do not infringe the rights of local communities surrounding its sites.
    • It ensures that assignments related to the security of its assets and its employees are conducted with respect for human rights.


  • The obligation of suppliers, subcontractors and partners to respect the Group’s own commitments

In its contracts with its suppliers and partners the Group includes a provision requiring the respect by them of the Group’s human rights commitments.

How to provide for the operational implementation of its commitments?

The Referential provides for the implementation of a human rights due diligence process, which covers all the company’s activities. This means:


  • The integration of human rights in the overall ethical compliance management:

Human rights commitments fall within the Group’s ethical policy and are integrated into the processes linked to ethical compliance.

In particular, they are specifically identified as ethical risks for the Group and as such are assessed annually. They are also included within the evaluation of the Group’s major projects. The Referential also provides for consideration of human rights in the annual compliance report and the internal control system.

The GDF SUEZ internal system for the reporting of ethical incidents explicitly includes incidents relating to human rights.


  • Integration of human rights into Group processes:

The risks specific to certain functions, businesses or activities are identified and are subject to appropriate risk management measures. Several specific policies take into account human rights, including:

The operational implementation of the Referential enables the Group to accurately identify the issues and the risks it faces and implement appropriate measures.


  • A systematic risk assessment at operational level

Each Business Line and each Business Unit ensures compliance with the Group’s commitments at local level, in particular by:

    • The annual assessment of risks related to human rights with any risks identified being subject to a risk control action plan
    • The evaluation of any new project, new business relationship, during the development of a new activity or facility in a new country with regard to human rights (any country identified “at risk” must be subject to an in-depth study)


  • The establishment of grievance mechanisms

Anyone who feels affected by the activities of the group can freely address questions, comments or requests:

    • At entity level, via the established operational mechanisms
    • At Group level via the ethics email or the Mediator for commercial questions

Different methodological tools support the Referential in order to help managers implement it. Developed using reference tools on this theme they have been adapted to the Group for optimal use.

In addition, training and awareness-raising programs have been developed.