Human Rights Guidance Tool for the Financial Sector
Human Rights Issues by Sector

Case Studies

July 2014, Peru: Indigenous peoples' organisations formulated a complaint against a regional development bank for violating their rights and for failing to reduce deforestation. More...

April 2014: The Banking Environment Initiative (BEI) & the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)'s set up a Soft Commodities Compact in 2010. There are now eleven banks signed up to the compact. More...

December 2009, Malaysia: Five indigenous communities in Borneo sued the Sarawak state government, demanding land titles for an area of 80,000 hectares, the nullification of unlawfully issued timber and planted-forest licenses and compensation for damage done by logging companies and dam constructions. More...

Forestry and Logging

Forestry is the management and use of natural resources occurring in forested land. Logging is the felling and removing of trees (including dead trees). It is usually followed by regeneration of the area.

Forestry and logging covers three key life-cycle phases:

  • propagation and harvesting (including land clearing; harvesting; site preparation; silvicultural treatments; road construction)
  • transport
  • processing (pulp and paper production; printing and publishing; wood processing).

Key human rights related risks

  • Workplace conditions, particularly health and safety in the workplace
  • Threats to livelihoods and life due to significant use of resources, including land, water and forest resources
  • Impacts on existing transport networks and local infrastructure (including health and access to water) which may be over-stretched by the forestry development
  • Indigenous peoples' rights.

Relevant voluntary and trade initiatives

  • Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade: FLEGT seeks to ensure that timber producing countries are acting legally, in particular in relation to the rights of indigenous and local communities who depend on forest resources
  • The Forest Stewardship Council: a not-for-profit organisation established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests and find solutions to the pressures facing forests and forest-dependent communities
  • Forest Peoples Programme: supports indigenous forest peoples to defend their lands and livelihoods
  • The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is the world's largest forest certification system.

There are links to these initiatives in Resources.

Core Operations

Health and Safety

Companies need to be aware of the risks to health and safety and take appropriate steps to avoid accidents and limit their consequences.

Main issues for the forestry and logging sector:

  • Fatal and non-fatal incidents and injuries that may have been prevented with appropriate policies and procedures being fully implemented;
  • proper training;
  • appropriate use of protective clothing and equipment;
  • better maintenance and use of tools and equipment;
  • information and training for employees;
  • proper transportation, storage and use of chemicals (especially in the processing of timber).

Controls and mitigants

  • Compliance with local/national law is the starting point
  • Even if local/national law, standards or enforcement are lower than internationally accepted good practice, a company should apply the same consistent and effective management practices globally (on workforce, community health and safety, supplier screening, site safety and security)
  • Health and safety plan communicated to all workers in their own language and supported by robust governance procedures
  • Full health and safety training for all workers, including follow up/refresher courses.


Livelihood and standard of living

Local communities have the right to work, to a fair living wage and to an adequate standard of living. These rights support the realisation of other rights such as the right to health, housing, participation in the culture of the community and education.

Main issues for the forestry and logging sector:

  • Threats to livelihoods and life due to the use of land and other natural resources including water
  • Relocation of communities away from their traditional means of living
  • Jobs created for migrant workers but not for local people
  • Reduced standard of living due to environmental impacts including dust, vibration, noise, vehicle movement and pollution of water courses.
  • Health and safety impacts on local communities include disposal of waste, and transport movements
  • Strain on infrastructure and public services due to an influx of workers. Transport networks and basic services like health and education may become more difficult for local people to access.

Local and indigenous peoples' rights

Forestry activities can impact on ancestral land. This land is important because of people's cultural heritage and because natural resources are used for medicine, housing, food and clothing.

Indigenous peoples use forested lands for hunting and gathering, (including food, fuel, medicines and construction materials) or for slash and burn agriculture. Either of these activities may be impacted by large scale forestry operations.

Main issues for the forestry and logging sector:

  • Lack of formal tenure arrangements (with tenure based on historical use rather than documentation) and complex national laws on land rights and land use, can lead to traditional rights being overlooked and claims that indigenous peoples' forestry activities are illegal
  • Lack of free, prior and informed consent of local and indigenous populations and/or lack of process to explore the issues can lead to arbitrary destruction of identity and livelihood
  • Forced removal of local or indigenous groups from lands. This may be carried out by host governments which do not recognise indigenous groups or their rights
  • Lack of, or unfair, compensation arrangements
  • Revenues from forestry may be channelled by host governments to support the national economy rather than benefitting local or indigenous people
  • Damage or reduced access to cultural and historical sites which form the basis of the identity of local or indigenous groups.

Controls and mitigants

  • A stakeholder engagement plan to ensure full and effective consultation with all stakeholders
  • Clearly defined procedures on the use of indigenous peoples' knowledge and resources, including payment, benefit-sharing and other considerations
  • A community awareness and education plan as part of health and safety measures
  • Policies and procedures on the conservation and sustainable use of finite resources, which take account of local community need for these resources now and in the future
  • Policies and procedures to ensure free, prior and informed consent of local and indigenous communities; ensuring that vulnerable groups are part of the consultation process and including a complaints mechanism for local communities
  • Policy and procedures on the relocation of communities, including measures around consultation, prompt and adequate compensation and continuation of livelihoods
  • Policies and procedures on the conservation of cultural, historical or religious sites which form the basis of the identity of local and/or indigenous groups
  • Policies and procedures which recognise and reflect relevant international and national agreements such as FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade), the International Tropical Timber Agreement and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
  • Participation in programmes of traceability, such as the Forest Stewardship Council's 'chain of custody' system
  • Payment of all applicable and legally prescribed fees, royalties, taxes and other charges.

See also the broader UNEP FI Environmental and Social Risk Briefing as well as Resources.


December 2014     United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative