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6 Aug 2021

Rapid rise in rights abuses by renewable energy companies in Latin America

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Allegations of human rights abuses against renewable energy companies operating in Latin America are on the increase, new research from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has found. Between 2010 and September 2020, the organisation recorded 501 cases of corporate abuse, accounting for over 2,300 allegations of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by 156 renewable energy companies and private and state banks operating in 17 countries across Latin America. Greater regulation and oversight by states and investors, and effective human rights due diligence processes by companies, is urgently needed to stem this rising tide of abuse and ensure the essential energy transition does not come at the cost of serious harm to local communities.

Key findings


The report focused on three renewable sectors: hydroelectric, wind and solar.

  • Of these three sectors, hydroelectric and wind pose the highest burden of alleged abuses. The hydroelectric sector is responsible of 80% of the allegations of human rights abuses, while the wind sector is responsible of 16% of the allegations and the solar sector of 4% of them.

Region/ country

  • Regional: Mexico and Central America had the highest number of cases of alleged abuse (343 or 68%) followed by South America with 158 cases (32%).
  • Country: Honduras had the highest number of cases for a single country: 138 (28%) followed by Mexico with 136 cases (27%) and Colombia with 67 cases (13%).

Abuse type

  • The most common type of abuse was land and territory rights violations (478 allegations).
  • Attacks against HRDs (454 allegations, including 106 killings and 110 counts of intimidation and threats) was the next most common.
  • Violations of indigenous rights (324 allegations), the right to a healthy environment (281 allegations) and the right to free, prior and informed consultation (229 allegations) were also common.

Karen Hudlet, Researcher, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, said, “Our research found renewable energy development is, in too many cases, replicating the social and environmental violence and harms that has characterized the fossil fuel sector. While we noted some progress regarding regulations, the number of cases and abuses in this report suggest the current structures and systems are insufficient to prevent abuses. A ‘just transition' in Latin America must incorporate an energy justice framework for promoting real participation in the design and development of energy projects.

“Worldwide, there is a shared understanding of the urgent need for a just energy transition to a net-zero carbon economy. Our briefing shows the equally urgent necessity to monitor and address the increasing human rights risks associated with renewable energy projects. The renewable energy sector needs robust due diligence and strong regulations. Without them, renewable energy projects will continue to harm communities, including Indigenous Peoples, who bear the burden of natural resource exploitation on their land and waters. If that happens, the necessary transition will not be fair, nor it will be fast.”


Find out more

Read the research: https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/from-us/briefings/renewable-energy-injustice-in-latin-america

Karen Hudlet, Researcher, +52 55 31 89 53 29, [email protected]

Media contact: Pippa Woolnough, Head of Communications, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, +353 858353757, [email protected]