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Human Rights

Respect for Human Rights 



Activities of companies can affect the human rights of employees, suppliers and partners, customers, local communities and other stakeholders in numerous ways. Total’s proactive approach to human rights reflects its ethical commitment and helps to establish and maintain successful relationships with all stakeholders, which is essential for the Group to operate effectively.

Total’s approach to respect for human rights is based on several pillars, described below.

Written commitments

The Group’s Code of Conduct was revised in 2014 to reinforce Total’s commitments in terms of respect for human rights. It sets out the Group’s adherence to international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR). In the event of any discrepancy between legal provisions and the Code of Conduct, the highest standard of protection of human rights applies.

In addition to its values, respect for human rights is one of the Group’s priority business principles, alongside integrity (preventing corruption and fraud and anti-competitive practices) and HSE standards. The Group ensures that employees’ rights are protected and prohibits any form of discrimination against them, including due to sexual orientation or identity. It demands that they themselves respect human rights. Total expects its suppliers to respect standards equivalent to its own and pay particular attention to their employees’ working conditions. In particular in 2015 Total signed a global agreement with the worldwide trade union federation, IndustriAll Global Union, which represents 50 million employees in 140 countries. Under this agreement, the Group is committed to maintaining minimum Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standards and guarantees worldwide for subsidiaries in which it has more than a 50% stake. The Group also ensures that the principles of the agreement on health, safety and human rights are disclosed to and promoted among its service providers and suppliers. The implementation of this agreement is monitored annually.

Furthermore, while respecting the sovereignty of the host countries in which it operates, the Group reserves the right to express its conviction on the importance of respecting human rights in matters concerning it. Finally, Total respects the rights of local communities by identifying, preventing and limiting the impacts of its activities on their way of life and remediating them.

Some of these principles are set out in the “To find out more” section of the Code of Conduct and are detailed in Total's Human Rights Guide, as updated in 2015.

In 2013, the Executive Committee approved Total’s first strategic roadmap and an action plan for 2013-2015. The aim was to systematically incorporate respect for human rights into the various risk management systems. In this context, a guide was published in 2015 to help the Group’s lawyers responsible for business mergers and acquisitions to improve how human rights are incorporated into the various applicable due diligence processes. In addition, easy-to-use tools (inspired by the VPSHR) have been developed and were deployed since 2016 at 46 exposed entities, to help them more effectively identify and evaluate the risks/impacts relating to security and human rights and put in place the appropriate corrective actions.

With a view to continuous improvement, the updated human rights roadmap and a new action plan for 2017-2018 were adopted by the Executive Committee in January 2017. The updated human rights roadmap focuses on the following priority areas:

  • consolidate the integration of human rights into operational decisions at the local level;
  • improve management’s awareness level and accountability with regard to human rights at all levels of the Company;
  • strengthen the process for evaluating the Group entities at risk, the tools made available to them and their monitoring.

A dedicated organization

The Ethics Committee and the Human Rights Division advise employees, help operatives and monitor efforts to promote respect for human rights. In particular, they run a human rights committee that coordinates the actions taken internally and externally by the various Group entities.

The Ethics Committee is a central, independent structure that represents all of Total’s business segments. Its role is to listen and support. Both employees and people outside the Group can refer matters to it by email at The Committee maintains confidentiality with regard to referrals, which can only be lifted with the agreement of the person in question.

At the local level, mechanisms for handling grievances raised by local communities are also implemented by subsidiaries exposed to societal risks in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP).

Awareness and training

To ensure its adopted principles are disseminated in-house, Total raises employee awareness via corporate communications channels, such as the platform for sharing best practices and challenges in the area of respect for human rights accessible to Group employees on the Total intranet, and through events such as the annual Business Ethics Day. In December 2017, the theme of the Business Ethics Day was the Group’s value, “Respect for Others”, and ethical dilemmas. The new Guide to taking into account religious teachings in the Group was distributed. Total also offers some employees special training tailored to the challenges faced in the field, such as the Responsible Leadership for Sustainable Business program and human rights training sessions for HSE experts and Community Liaison Officers (CLO) organized with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR). Finally, actions are taken to raise awareness among the Group’s external stakeholders, such as training related to the VPSHR for its security providers.

Assessments and reporting

Tools are used to regularly assess the subsidiaries’ human rights practices and the risks they may have to face. Their objective is to analyze the societal impacts of a project at the local level or to verify that the subsidiaries’ practices are in line with the Group’s ethical standards. Almost 120 subsidiaries were evaluated since 2002. These assessments are undertaken by GoodCorporation a qualified ethics expert. The assessment framework related to human rights and anti-corruption is used on site, and numerous internal and external stakeholders are interviewed by GoodCorporation, which then issues a final report identifying points for improvement and good practices. The entity is then given several months to correct any issues that have been identified. A follow-up report is issued by GoodCorporation for the entities that were assessed. Following a call for tenders in 2017, GoodCorporation was once again selected to support the Group in this area.

In 2017, a self-assessment tool was developed and will be used to enable subsidiaries to measure their maturity and progress in terms of ethics.

In addition, other non-profit partner organizations, such as the CDA Corporate Engagement Project, also contribute by evaluating the societal impact of the Group’s activities on nearby local communities, for example by surveying the populations in question. CDA’s reports are published online on their website. The Group is also working with International Alert (IA), an independent British organization that specializes in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, to assess the Group’s impacts on human rights and conflict risks at a local level. The Group additionally conducts human rights impact assessments at the subsidiaries with the help of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, a Danish public non-profit organization. For example, at the end of 2015, Total worked with the DIHR in Nigeria to assess the human rights practices of its E&P subsidiary, thus identifying the main areas for improvement and recommendations. In 2017, a process was carried out to monitor the progress made by the subsidiary in implementing the recommendations. The DIHR also worked in Papua New Guinea in 2017 to carry out a local human rights impact assessment.

In July 2016, Total published its first dedicated Human Right report based on the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, becoming the first oil & gas company to do so. This information document, which has been updated in 2018, presents Total’s approach to integrate respect for human rights into its operations and business relations.

It focuses on the three key topics for the Group and presents the most important subjects and risks for each topic:

  • human rights in the workplace, concerning Total’s employees as well as its suppliers, contractors, partners, and their subcontractors. The salient subjects identified are forced labor and child labor, discrimination, fair and just working conditions and safety;
  • human rights and local communities. The salient subjects identified are issues of access to land and the right to health and an adequate standard of living;
  • human rights and security, concerning measures to protect against the risks and threats to which the Group’s employees and facilities are exposed, while ensuring that the salient risk of disproportionate use of force is avoided.

For each of these six subject areas and salient risks, the information document summarizes Total’s policies, the training and awareness-raising actions taken, and the due diligence measures implemented in response to the identified issues.

In June 2017, the Group’s subsidiaries in the United Kingdom published Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Statements in accordance with Section 54(1) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Corporate Human Rights Benchmark

Total is the first major oil company in the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark rankings published in March 2017. This initiative, developed jointly by various NGOs and supported by investors managing several billion dollars, is based on a complex questionnaire that evaluates companies’ maturity regarding human rights issues.

Practical guide to dealing with religious questions within the Group

In June 2017, a guide to taking into account religious teachings in the Group was distributed in-house. The guide provides concrete answers to the questions that managers and employees might have in this regard, and is based on feedback from subsidiaries in the field in the different countries where the Group operates. The guide promotes respect for differences and tolerance of other people’s beliefs.

Participation in external initiatives

Total is actively involved in numerous initiatives and working groups on human rights that bring together various stakeholders including Global Compact, Global Compact LEAD (initiative for sustainable leadership), Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, IPIECA, VPSHR and non-profit organizations such as Shift.