Human rights

Human rights are universal – to be enjoyed by all people, no matter who they are or where they live. There are human rights dimensions to everything businesses do: from their treatment of employees to how they address land conflicts and labor abuses deep within their supply chains. Both Rabobank and its corporate clients have a responsibility to respect human rights.

Rabobank sets out its human rights ambitions in its Sustainability Policy Framework, where Human Rights and Labor Rights represent two of the bank’s four Core Policies. In short:

Rabobank respects all the human rights of its employees, carries out due diligence regarding human rights in its commercial relationships and aims to make a positive contribution to society in the countries in which it operates. All clients are expected to respect and promote human rights, as described in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), in their business decisions, and are expected to use their influence with their suppliers to do the same. For unavoidable adverse impacts, they are expected to provide for and cooperate in remediation through legitimate processes.

The framework also identifies the bank’s most salient human rights risks. Internationally, Rabobank is a leading financier of Food & Agriculture, a sector that comes with risks including land conflicts, labor abuse and dangerous work conditions. These risks are further addressed in sector- and theme-specific sustainability policies.

Rabobank’s commitment to human rights

  • Our Sustainability Policy is paramount to us and our clients.
  • As part of our core business, we perform client due diligence and annually measure the social and environmental impact of all our clients via our Client Photo and “Sustainability Matrix.” Based on these results, relationship managers may engage clients to help them improve.
  • Clients in high-risk sectors or in the top 100 of our portfolio are further scrutinized by our sustainability experts.
  • When human rights cases come to our attention through data providers, media and NGO reports, we engage implicated clients. We disclose the progress of engagement with clients on controversy cases in our annual report. As an ultimate measure, a client can be exited.
  • We were an active participant in the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement on Human Rights (2016-2019), which aimed to determine how Dutch banks, trade unions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the government can work together to respect human rights. We looked into several high-risk value chains and investigated how to increase our leverage to achieve positive human rights impact and how to increase transparency.
  • Rabobank and trade union CNV collaborate on a pilot to map and rank the Collective Labor Agreements for palm oil workers in one region of Indonesia. This baseline measurement could ultimately help banks determine risks.
  • We engage with stakeholders by holding dialogues and roundtables with NGOs and government representatives about human rights in the cocoa and palm oil sectors.
  • We develop sustainability-linked loans to engage clients on human rights topics with targets that include improving access to education for children and women.
  • We use impact financing to improve the right to sustainable livelihoods. For example, the AGRI3 Fund, a proactive blended finance approach with smallholder inclusion and social and environmental KPIs.
  • Together with other banks we joined a data-sharing project to find human traffickers and other examples of modern slavery.
  • Rabobank earned 8 out of 14 points in the human rights benchmark of the NGO BankTrack, the second highest score among the 50 international banks evaluated.
  • We are a signatory to the UNEP FI Principles for Responsible Banking.