Bernard Claude – Business Voice

Bernard Claude - (Former) Chair, Ethics Committee, Total S.A.

Policy commitment – Internal Guidance – Engaging key functions – Due diligence - NGO-led impact assessments

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In about 2002 Total implemented its Code of Conduct and implemented around the Code of Conduct a system to explain it, to assess it, to integrate it in our work.  In 2008 we wanted to insist developing the human rights side of that Code of Conduct.  The matters around fighting corruption, fraud, the antitrust rules were already very well defined by the lawyers. Human rights  issues are, as you know, more value a description, and therefore we wanted to spend some focused time and activities on the human rights aspect.

Our Code of Conduct describes the way that Total wants to work across the world, including in respect of human rights, and in fact it is very simple.  It is to respect people and to work the same way wherever we are in the world with everyone inside and outside Total.  We then started to write a practical guide on human rights. Based on the Code of Conduct, it provides a practical description of what we mean by human rights and giving examples to people in the 130 countries in which we work, where everybody wants to respect human rights, but not everyone knows what it means in operation.  So next to our Code of Conduct we have a practical guide and explanation on how to use it.

In 2002 we also started to implement as assessment of the application of our Code of Conduct, focused on how Total and its affiliates take care of the fight against corruption and fraud, antitrust and human rights.  We conduct about 10 assessment on affiliates per year, but again we thought that this was not enough for the human rights aspect.  Since last year 2009 we have added a specific assessment for human rights that we established with the Danish Institute for Human Rights.  This is like our practical guide – it is both a document that allows the affiliate to understand what human rights is meaning and then  to find out where we can help them with procedures, descriptions and so on, so in fact it is a self assessment where the Danish Institute for Human Rights is helping the affiliate to understand what it takes to respect the human rights. 

That relates to what we do inside our affiliate and inside our supply chain.  The one part missing was our societal implementation in the areas where we work, which is very important with respect to human rights.  Since around 2003 we’ve been working with CDA, an American non-profit organisation which specialises in the social implementation of our activities. Every year they go in to two of our affiliates.  They go freely and independently of Total and they discuss with people in the villages and the communities around all operations to find out how we take care of them in our work, in our developing the activities and so on.  CDA then reports what they see in the way we work.  What is very important is that those assessments are done by external bodies – two of them being non-profit organizations.  We think that people in the affiliates and in the communities will talk more openly to them and more frankly than if it would be an internal Total audit.

After doing that we work to integrate the outcomes and requirements into our business and our activities.  We do this many ways.  The first way is that after the assessments we put action items to the affiliate and we want the affiliates to treat those action items like an operation audit, where they need to implement what is missing, to fill up the gaps and we follow that.  Six months later we check and see how they are doing.  We are also working together inside Total.  The department that implements the system and the procedures is the compliance department.  The Ethics Department ensures everyone has access to the what the company has developed.  So by working together we go to all those assessments together – both Ethics and Compliance – making sure that not only the system of Total is taking care of what needs to be done, but also through Ethics that every person has access.  Integration of human rights is in many places of Total. You have Human Resources, as all labour laws linked to human rights; you have External Affairs who have contact with NGOs; Security in relation to the Voluntary Principles on Security and so on.  Many people are working throughout Total on human rights.  Every month we have a human rights coordination meeting with all those departments and we also do joint training.  With Sustainable Development, we go into two countries together every year and we discuss for two days the management of those countries and we answer those questions together.  We also do our CSR report which includes ethics, sustainable development, environmental and societal impacts and we author that together. 

This is really an opportunity to internally and externally show our values.  This is not something we have do to because its expected from us. We do it because there is a strong desire inside our management in Total, but also in our stakeholders, that our company that works in 132 countries – the majority of them being difficult countries – should do so in a proper way, and that is certainly something that with time is becoming more and more of use.

Extract revised for written version from audio file recorded in 2010