“Being a hard coal importer from Colombia, we have a high responsibility to assess all risks that are associated with this business activity as well as to support suppliers in improving their sustainability performance in line with OECD guidelines. The country visit is an important part of our improved due diligence procedure,” says Annika Ramsköld, head of Corporate Sustainability at Vattenfall.
During the three-week visit, Vattenfall’s delegation will talk to representatives of government (ministry of environment, ministry on the interior), authorities (environmental licensing authorities and regional monitoring bodies), embassies, civil society stakeholders such as NGOs, labour unions, local communities and indigenous groups as well as mining companies.
Vattenfall selected civil society stakeholders by consulting several experts on Colombia, such as the Swedish NGO Forum Syd, Dutch NGO Pax and Colombian NGO CREER.
“Forum Syd welcomes that Vattenfall is conducting an independent visit to Colombia. It is important for Swedish business to independently be able to meet representatives of local and indigenous people who are affected by coal mining in Colombia,” says Lisa Sjöblom, General Secretary of the development organisation Forum Syd, which has an office and several projects in the country.
The interviews and the on-site visits to the mining companies will result in a report of the impact that Vattenfall has through its coal supply chain on the environment, as well as on local communities and local mining employees in Colombia.
“We will assess the mining companies based on our Code of Conduct for Suppliers. We will be looking into areas such as health and safety at mining operations, the impact of local emissions on people and the environmental performance in general, as well as whether companies live up to regulations. Another focus area will be the continued threats to community leaders and unionists in the mining region by new paramilitary organisations,” Ramsköld says.
“We will also follow-up on our additional criteria for Colombian suppliers by getting further local perspectives on how Vattenfall can support Colombian stakeholders in the reconciliation process for past human rights violation in the Cesar region,” she says.
Vattenfall will use the report as input to its due diligence process in the coal supply chain and in meetings with Colombian mining companies and other stakeholders to advance continuous improvements on the ground. Vattenfall will publish a summary of its assessment.
The visit to Colombia is scheduled from 6 March to 26 March. The first four days of the visit will be conducted together with the industry initiative Bettercoal. From there on, two experts from Vattenfall’s sustainability and compliance departments are going to interview stakeholders in the mining regions of Cesar and la Guajira, at local coal ports, and in the country’s capital, Bogotá.
Vattenfall is one of the European energy companies buying hard coal from Colombia. Coal from Colombia is often criticised for past and present violations of human rights that are said to be associated with coal mine operations. Vattenfall is strongly committed to use its commercial leverage to push mining companies to improve the situation. During the past few years, Vattenfall has intensified its work to influence the development of human rights in the country.