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Human rights

Cairn is committed to a culture that supports internationally recognised human rights, and applies a ‘rights aware’ approach in identifying, assessing and addressing issues that fall within our scope of influence.

Respect for human rights is one of Cairn’s key priorities, and one of our defining Business Principles. We seek to apply the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which are within our sphere of influence and activities. This includes the rights of employees and individuals who may be affected by our activities.

Meeting our responsibility to respect human rights is critical to the development and maintenance of effective relationships with our workers and the communities in which we operate.

We are committed to a culture that supports internationally recognised human rights and seeks to ensure non-complicity in any human rights abuses. We apply a ‘rights aware’ approach in identifying and assessing any human rights at issue in our activities, and defining actions to be taken to address them.

Cairn has taken a proactive position with regard to human rights risk management for many years. Our Human Rights Handbook contains guidance for managers on assessing human rights issues. This helps to ensure that human rights is one of the Corporate Responsibility (CR) risks considered at key stages of every project, and is reflected in our Project Delivery Process (PDP) (see Operational and project performance). We use a five-step approach to identify and assess human rights issues in our sphere of influence.

Business principles, policies and performance standards - Compliance to law

Our guidelines are governed by the UDHR and the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as well as taking into account guidance from the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) and the European Union (EU).

We apply human rights screening as part of the Company’s comprehensive due diligence process before entering a country as an operator. When considering a non-operated joint venture, we identify and check any human rights issues and establish any risks requiring management by the operator before proceeding. For operations, we will assess human rights impacts either within an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) or where necessary, we undertake a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA). If, following these assessments, any potential human rights impacts are identified, we use a ‘rights aware’ approach, which recognises that the most effective way to manage these issues is through our core business operations.

Respect for our employees

We believe that by promoting a work environment in which people are treated with dignity and respect, we can maintain a loyal, motivated and effective workforce. This includes ensuring fair and just rewards for employees’ contributions and supporting opportunities for professional development.

We also have policies in place covering the areas of recruitment, grievance, harassment and equal opportunities, which seek to ensure that all current and potential employees are treated fairly.

We respect the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining. Although we do not have any employees who are unionised or have any collective agreements in place, we do consult our workforce on organisational issues on a regular basis and through a variety of other means. We respect those contract employees who work with us and their membership of unions which we consider during our contracting activities (see Culture and engagement).

Respect for communities

A fundamental respect for human rights is critical to the maintenance of the good working relationships we have with the local communities with which we interact.

As an oil and gas exploration and development company, our activities may at times have the potential to impact local communities. This may be temporary for exploratory and appraisal work (e.g. for seismic surveys, exploratory drilling, road access), and/or for longer periods for permanent facilities (e.g. production wells, processing facilities, pipelines, roads). Potential impacts may include the use of scarce local resources, for example water, land or other natural resources. We recognise that this use of resources can have an adverse impact on communities, and on others that use the natural resources, in terms of physical displacement (relocation or loss of shelter) and economic displacement (loss of assets or access to assets that leads to loss of income sources or means of livelihood). Our ESIAs, carried out for all major operational activities, help us to identify potential impacts on resources important to the local communities and identify plans to eliminate, minimise and/or mitigate any impacts, which are then included in our Environmental and Social Management Plans (ESMPs).

Our CR Management System sets out our approach to managing potential community impacts in accordance with the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Performance Standard 5, requiring the development of action plans in cases where activities could lead to economic or physical displacement.

In 2015, our drilling and seismic operations were carried out offshore Senegal, with some onshore support operations in established ports. No physical displacement of individuals, or any identified economic displacement of individuals or communities resulted from our operations. Our ESIAs and ESMPs were or updated for all drilling and seismic programmes conducted in 2015.

In addition, we recognised the importance of keeping local fishermen informed of our day-to-day operations and we put in place a mechanism whereby they were able to understand our activities to reduce impact and also able to provide us with feedback.

Grievances and concerns

Occasionally, during the lifetime of a project, unforeseeable human rights or other stakeholder issues can arise. In these cases, whether they apply to whole communities or individuals, we apply the UN’s ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework.

There are also various ways in which employees or contractors with concerns about human rights issues can take issues forward, including the Company’s whistle-blowing procedure.

In 2015 we received a small number of public enquiries regarding our participation in Western Sahara where we are a non-operator and we responded in detail to all these enquiries. In addition, specific issues raised via the operator’s grievance procedures regarding Cap Boujdour were tracked and challenged where necessary.

Case Study – Addressing concerns regarding seismic activities offshore Senegal

We completed a 3D seismic campaign offshore Senegal within the Rufisque, Sangomar and Sangomar Deep blocks, where there are significant marine resources in the area important to local fishing activities.

To address stakeholder concerns, a number of activities were undertaken to consult with local representatives:

Submissions were made to national and regional authorities to explain the scope of the operations and an Environmental Assessment Report was compiled to identify environmental sensitivities in the areas and formulate management measures to ensure our operations had a minimal impact on marine life. To monitor implementation of these measures, the seismic vessel included a marine mammal observer who, along with advising and reporting on compliance to environmental management measures, also collected data on encountered marine mammals and bird life. This environmental data will be shared with the Senegalese Government authorities to add to their national information resource.

Channels of communication were set up with fishing organisations and maritime authorities. Ahead of operations, information flyers were produced to ensure that the local fishing communities understood how seismic projects are undertaken. We provided information relating to the essential actions to be taken by any fishing vessels encountering the seismic operations, including a diagram showing the safe working distances around the 8km x 1km streamer spread layout. Through seismic operations, radio announcements were made providing information on where our operations would be in the coming days. We initially deployed two boats and a support vessel to warn and guide fishermen out of the path of the seismic vessel.  As the level of fishing activity encountered, was higher than anticipated, particularly closer to the coast. We completed the campaign with four boats and a support vessel. Communication was facilitated by French and Wolof speaking fisheries liaison officers on board the vessels.

A claim procedure for potential claims was promoted to receive and address potential complaints as well as provide an ongoing means for asking further questions. We received a single claim for damaged fishing equipment and this was addressed using the claim procedure.  

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