Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR at Vestas - Leading a responsible and inclusive energy transition

As the reach and scale of renewable energy increases, so does the urgency to ensure this scale is supported by sustainable practices. Integrating sustainability in everything we do is a part of this.

In support of this, Vestas has committed to respecting human rights within the development of wind energy projects that we contribute to. This was strengthened with the launch of the CSR strategy “Leading a responsible and inclusive energy transition” in 2020.

Our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) blueprint is not a revolution, but an evolution. It’s a more focused approach on what was started years ago. It consists of three pillars, focusing on:  

• Responsibility, strengthening human rights governance and management;  

• Inclusiveness, creating long-term value and engagement where we are present;

• Leadership, ensuring the integration of Human Rights in the energy transition. 

Since 2020, Vestas' annual report includes human-rights related KPIs together with an explanation of their progress or setback to account for our development within the three pillars of the CSR strategy. The tracked KPIs are the number of community grievances received, the percentage of Social Due Diligence conducted in qualifying projects, and the number of direct community beneficiaries reached through our community initiatives.

By having CSR integrated into our processes, we are in a better position to lead a responsible and inclusive energy transition.


Our Responsibility, strengthening human rights governance and management

Vestas is committed to respecting human rights wherever we are present, and we see it as our responsibility to operationalise this commitment.

We have developed our own social framework, informed by international industry practice and in line with international standards. Our social framework aims at earning the “Social License to Operate” (SLO), which is the ongoing social approval of our activities by the communities we work in. This approach builds a healthy foundation of community acceptance, approval, and trust of the wind farm throughout its lifetime.

We earn the SLO in a community by identifying, preventing, mitigating, and accounting for how Vestas addresses risks to human rights. This exercise is outlined in our Social Due Diligence (SDD) methodology.

Our methodology ensures that we clarify uncertainties linked to potential human rights impacts. Such uncertainties could be in relation to land acquisition, local employment, cultural customs and heritage, community health and safety, or access to remedy for impacted communities and workers. These steps allow us to reduce our negative impacts on local communities and enhance positive impacts, thereby making our projects more inclusive.

We are constantly working to ensure that all projects within scope undergo social due diligence. This also means that we conduct SDDs on projects that do not reach Firm Order Intake (FOI) in the reporting year. 

Read about our Social Management System for more information on our human rights methodology in our market approach and how we support our customers in creating bankable projects.

A woman and her children watching a theatre play discussing social issues related to the Taïba wind farm project in Senegal

Vestas has committed to respecting human rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. To fulfil this commitment, Vestas conducts a corporate-wide Human Rights Assessment (HRA) minimum every three years. Conducting the assessments regularly will continue to allow Vestas to identify and assess emerging human rights risks and impacts and integrate findings into business practices as the business evolves, as well as to track and communicate progress both internally and externally.

To date, external sustainability experts from BSR have conducted two corporate-wide HRAs at Vestas: the first one in 2018, and the most recent one in 2022. Both HRAs utilized similar methodology and mapped out relevant actual and potential human rights risks looking at how Vestas might impact rightsholders across our activities and value chain. The assessments consisted of desktop research, an analysis of internal management processes, and interviews. Since 2018, the assessment has evolved to include interviews with external stakeholders representing relevant rightsholder groups such as indigenous peoples and workers, in addition to Vestas’ senior management and internal subject matter experts.

While our first HRA looked at Procurement and Manufacturing, Sales and Construction, and Service, the 2022 version also included two new parts of the business to reflect Vestas’ internal changes, namely, Vestas Development and Offshore. 

Identifying Salient Human Rights Issues

Both HRDDs identified a number of human rights issues across our operations and value chain. Each risk was prioritized according to two sets of criteria: the salience of risk (scale, scope, remediability, likelihood) and relevance for business action (attribution, leverage, risk history, current management).

The 2022 HRDD identified 15 human rights issues at risk for Vestas. While these have mostly remained the same since 2018, the 2022 assessment identified three areas for continued focus: labour rights in lower tiers of the supply chain, occupational health and safety (OHS), and communities' rights to land.

In addition to the ongoing focus areas, the 2022 HRDD identified three new human rights priority areas stemming from Vestas' evolving operating model and changing geopolitical context, which Vestas will prioritize in our management systems.

Integrating and Acting on HRDD Findings

Since our first HRDD in 2018, which resulted in 52 recommendations, our ongoing HRDD process has evolved to include a system of progress-tracking where external experts from BSR analyze the integration of identified recommendations across time. Since 2018, priority was given internally to the recommendations related to our governance and management of human rights. 

Key implementation highlights since 2018:

  • 2019: Our Human Rights Policy was updated to reflect changes on our due diligence process and remedy access, acknowledgements to more rightsholders including human rights defenders, and signed at the highest level by Vestas’ Chairman of the board.
  • 2020: Social Due Diligence system was updated to address human rights issues as per the HRDD recommendations and to reflect learnings from projects in emerging markets.
  • 2021:
    • New versions of our Employee and Supplier Codes of Conduct reflecting current industry standards and more focus on areas such as community engagement were developed.
    • A Conflicts Mineral Program following the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals was created. 
  • 2022: A designated social sustainability expert onboarded Vestas to ensure improved oversight of human rights issues within the supply chain. 

Vestas recognizes that working with human rights is an ongoing journey and that we still have work ahead of us, primarily strengthening our human rights management across the value chain and development activities. The findings of our 2022 HRDD will provide valuable guidance for our next steps.

Vestas is committed to remedying actual adverse impacts on individuals, workers, and communities that we may have caused or contributed to. Where adverse impacts are committed by third parties with links to Vestas through our services, we seek to use our leverage to ensure that those impacted are remedied. For this purpose, Vestas has in place an Operational Grievance Mechanism (OGM) during the construction of our wind farm projects. The OGM is available without obstructing access to other remedies. 

The OGM applies globally and has been developed meeting expectations outlined in international standards and principles such as the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and IFC’s Environmental and Social Performance Standards. The OGMs are available in English and in local languages.

A complainant, be it a group or an individual, can raise a concern, or a grievance related to human rights issues e.g.:

  • Stakeholder engagement 
  • Land acquisition, land use and livelihoods
  • Displacement and resettlement
  • Local employment and procurement opportunities
  • Demographic movement
  • Cultural customs and heritage
  • Community health and safety
  • Access to remedy

Our Suggestion Box in Lake Turkana, Kenya gives local community members the ability to share grievances in writing, should they have any

Vestas reports the number of community grievances received in our Annual Report and Sustainability Report. We are pleased to see that our operational-level grievance mechanism is being used and we will continue to revise and improve it so that we can ensure local communities have the opportunity to raise issues with us as soon as they arise.

In addition, Vestas has a global whistleblower platform “EthicsLine” which can be used to report observed or suspected malpractice. We also work with our business partners to remedy adverse impacts which are directly linked to our operations, services, or products through the latter’s own grievance mechanisms.

Findings of previous EthicsLine and community grievance cases are used for training material for internal learning.

More information about the OGM process can be found in our Social Management System which describes our social framework. 

 


"We do not have all the answers and we cannot do this alone. We need to engage with our partners to move the needle on human rights, especially in the more challenging emerging markets. This is the way we can lead a responsible and inclusive energy transition, hand in hand." 


Inclusiveness, creating long-term value and engagement where we are present

At Vestas, we prioritize working with customers, local authorities, communities, and other actors in wind farm projects to develop good relationships and invest back in the local community. These relationships are essential for successful and sustainable projects, especially in emerging markets. By working this way, we can nurture a close collaboration with our customers, partners, investors, contractors and with local stakeholders, to focus more on human rights. And by doing this, we can avoid potential negative impacts such as on local livelihoods, community health and safety, straining local resources, etc. We also promote positive impacts such as education, enhanced employability, jobs, and a better understanding of renewable energy.

In 2020, Vestas started reporting on the number of direct community beneficiaries from our community engagement initiatives. Among other topics, our projects tend to focus on skills training, installing solar panels in local health centres, repairing school toilets, and providing locals with cooking stoves. We always consider the results of the Social Due Diligence conducted for the project and our six primary Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) when choosing which community engagement initiatives, in collaboration with the local community and our partners.

Our six primary focus SDGs are:  (SDG4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; (SDG7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; (SDG8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; (SDG12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; (SDG13) Take urgent action to combat climate and its impacts and; (SDG17) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. 

School girls playing football near the Lake Turkana wind farm in Kenya


Senegal - Improved educational conditions for students and teachers 

Before

After

Elementary school in the Taïba Mbaye village, Senegal

In September 2018, Vestas announced a contract to provide a customized solution for the first wind park ever built in Senegal. The location of the new 158.7 MW plant, owned by the renewable energy generation company Lekela, was in Taiba N’Diaye, a small town located 75 km northeast of Dakar.  

Since Vestas will service the wind farm for the next 20 years, it was natural to build and maintain a sound relationship with the community. We have done this through regular community engagement and development initiatives. Education is one of the SDGs that Vestas focuses on. Vestas supported schools in the Taiba N'Diaye project area by:  

i) repairing the sanitation and lavatory buildings and constructing a new classroom at the elementary school in Taiba Mbaye village, benefitting 565 students and 11 teachers, and 

ii) repairing the public lavatories and replacing 16 windows and three doors at the elementary school and at the college in Miname and Keur Malle villages,  benefiting 577 students and 24 teachers. 

UN Sustainable Development Goals covered:


Dominican Republic - Transferring skills and knowledge through hands-on training

In 2011, Vestas installed the first wind turbine in the Dominican Republic. In order to increase awareness on renewable energy, in 2019 Vestas partnered with the NGO “500 RPM” and the National Institute of Professional Technical Training (INFOTEP) to build a simple 350W DIY turbine.

The turbine was installed next to a rural school as a backup solution to the constant power cuts. This initiative developed local knowledge through a theoretical and practical workshop so that the technical schools can replicate this type of turbine in the future. 

UN Sustainable Development Goals covered:


India - Community development programme

Vestas started a structure community programme close to its under-construction 250 MW wind farm in Gujarat. The initiative is based on the specific community needs in the 13 villages closest to the wind farm in the Bhuj and Mandvi Blocks of Kutch district, Gujarat, India. Through discussions with community members and other local stakeholders, several themes were identified as areas for positive impact. The areas prioritized were children’s education, skills development, water and sanitation, and healthcare of domestic animals. The community programme is ongoing, even during the service phase of the wind farm.

Impact:

  • Over 1400 children benefited from across 13 rural schools with education kit learning materials

  • 80 rural young women were trained in local traditional arts and crafts for individual income generation and were connected to a local resource center for further collective action

  • 950 children now have access to clean drinking water through the setting up of Reverse Osmosis units and 400 children have access to better sanitation facilities through repair and renovation in three schools

  • The repair and renovation of community water facilities benefited around 500 families in six villages

  • Around 450 villagers from seven villages benefited from various general preventive health checkup camps

  • Approximately five thousand domestic cattle were vaccinated through animal vaccination treatment camps in three villages

      

Read more about our other initiatives below



UN Sustainable Development Goals covered:

Transferring skills and knowledge through hands-on training

In 2018, Vestas constructed the 100 MW turnkey Corti wind farm near Bahía Blanca in Argentina. In order to increase awareness on renewable energy and to actually develop renewable energy at educational institutions, Vestas and our customer partnered with a local NGO to build small 350W wind turbines based on a DIY concept. 

Nine Vestas employees assisted hands-on in the project. The students were trained by the NGO on how to build the small turbines so that in the future they can build more turbines for the rural communities in the area.

Sustainable Development Goals covered:

Developing the next generation of wind energy engineers 

Vestas pioneered wind energy in Tamaulipas, Mexico in 2014 with the installation of the first wind turbine in the state. We recognize that our human talent is a critical factor to our success. To further this, Vestas has implemented educational partnerships with local universities to develop the next generation of wind energy engineers.

 

As part of the initiative, Vestas technical employees share their knowledge and experience with the third generation of students studying towards a Diploma in Maintenance of Wind Generators from the Victoria Polytechnic University. Some graduates from previous generations have gone on to join Vestas as Service Technicians. These technicians will be part of Tamaulipas’ ambitious energy plan to significantly contribute to the installed capacity in Mexico within the next few years.

 

Sustainable Development Goals covered:

Raising cultural and historical awareness through archeological discoveries

As a leader in the energy transition, Vestas recognizes the importance of respecting the culture and traditions of the communities near its operations. One of Vestas’ priorities is to build wind farms without adversely impacting the environment around it and fully respecting human rights.

In April 2019, the first exhibition of archaeological remains found during the excavation of the foundations of the turbines took place in Tamaulipas. The exhibition, promoted by the Tres Mesas Wind Farm and National Institute of Archeology and History, was partially sponsored by Vestas. It featured artifacts found during the project as well as infographics showing the archaeological practices used during the preparation of the foundations. The exhibition raised awareness in the local community about the cultural and historical background of the Las Mesas area and how it can coexist with the installed wind energy projects.

Sustainable Development Goals covered:


Leadership, ensuring the integration of Human Rights in the energy transition

As the aspiring world leader in sustainable energy solutions, Vestas is working to accelerate the renewable industry’s human rights performance through fostering partnerships. If the energy transition is to be truly responsible and inclusive, we need to adopt a cross-stakeholder, collaborative approach respecting business-related human rights. Human rights are transitioning from soft law to hard law and financial institutions are firming up their demands. Vestas and its customers will have to approach these changes together.

To this end, Vestas continuously seeks to contribute to the ongoing dialogue on business and human rights by building and using leverage, participating in public statements and sharing our experiences in panels, networks, and documents. As a recent example, in 2022 we contributed insights and peer review to Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI)'s Business Guide for Respecting Human Rights of Communities in Commercial Wind and Solar Project Deployment.

In 2009, Vestas signed the UN Global Compact and began its human rights journey. A decade has since passed, and we are ready to take the next steps.

Our social coordinator speaking near the community near the Lake Turkana
wind farm in Kenya

Click to enlarge
Our Human Rights Journey
File title:
Our Human Rights Journey
  • Human Rights Policy
    • This policy outlines Vestas' commitment to respecting human rights and addressing adverse human rights impacts, when applicable
  • Modern Slavery Act Statement
    • Our annual statement addressing the risks of slavery and human trafficking taking place in Vestas' business and supply chains
  • Social Management System
    • An outline of our human rights methodology in our market approach, supporting customers in creating bankable projects
       
  • Lake Turkana Impact Study
    • A socio-economic study of the key impacts from Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Kenya