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Focus areas / Natural resources


A growing number of companies are implementing increasingly sustainable business models. But change is too slow to respond to the climate crisis and the rapid depletion of natural resources. 

Turning the tide on climate change

The climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our time. People living in poverty are often disproportionately affected, as livelihoods are increasingly threatened by extreme weather conditions and competition over natural resources.

Business actors are key to mitigate climate change, not only by reducing their own emissions but by working with rather than against governments towards stronger climate policies. With its potential to direct resources towards clean energy industries, the finance sector is also imperative to turn the tide on climate change.

Respect for ecosystems and human rights

Natural resources are needed to produce everything from t-shirts to laptops. However, the extraction and management of the world’s resources is too often unsustainable, leading to pollution and biodiversity loss.

Corporations need to develop business models that respect the limits for what the world’s ecosystems can endure, as well as the rights of local populations. In countries where states fail to fulfil their human rights and environmental protection obligations, thorough due diligence processes are particularly important.

Swedwatch´s approach
Working with key stakeholders, Swedwatch puts the spotlight on urgent global human rights and environmental justice issues, from the finance sector’s role in fossil fuel production to deforestation caused by palm oil plantations and water shortages linked to vegetable exports. Through investigations and dialogue, we urge companies to take a more responsible approach to their impact on natural resources and local communities. We also support communities and workers in their dialogue and engagement with businesses and authorities to defend their livelihoods.

Head of Unit Natural Resources
Hannah CV pic

Hannah Peters

+46 (0)73 223 02 87

Snapshots of our work on natural resources


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Heavy polluters vs local rights

Liberia_report_cover_forWeb20210219 (1)Natural rubber is used in products ranging from car tyres to clothes. It is also one of the world’s worst water polluting industries.

In a project conducted in collaboration with Source International and Liberian Green Advocates International, Swedwatch investigated claims that global tyre giant Bridgestone Corporation and a subsidiary in Liberia caused environmental pollution around its rubber processing plant.

In the project, air and water samples from around the rubber processing site found dangerous levels of heavy metals in drinking water, and large dust particles in the air. Swedwatch and the project partners called on the company to urgently conduct human rights due diligence and a human rights and environmental impact assessment, to share results with local communities and to rectify any shortcomings.

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Export credits up in smoke

up in smokeDespite the climate commitments in the Paris Agreement, a Swedwatch investigation revealed how European state-backed export credits have contributed to expanding South Africa’s coal industry.

The Swedwatch report Up in Smoke also highlighted the adverse local impacts of the coal industry, and urged governments to stop export credits associated with coal projects and to increase transparency around state support to fossil fuels.

Swedwatch’s advocacy contributed to reducing support to companies exporting to the coal sector. During the course of Swedwatch’s work on the issue, Sweden’s export credit agency announced an end to all export credits to exploration, extraction and transportation of coal by the end of 2020.

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The Addax Bioenergy project in Sierra Leone was part funded by European development finance institutions and negatively impacted local communities’ access to land and water.

Irresponsible exits

Swedwatch has for many years worked to raise awareness in the investor community on how the lack of responsible exit strategies, when investors pull out of large-scale land projects, have resulted in severe human rights implications for local communities.

In one case Swedwatch engaged with Swedish development finance institution Swedfund over its withdrawal from an ethanol project in Sierra Leone which contributed to loss of livelihoods and nearly 3,000 jobs.

In related projects, Swedwatch has engaged both with government agencies and communities, advocating for stronger policies on exits, human rights due diligence processes and access to remedy in land investments.


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Food imports and water scarcity

SmallLarge-scale agricultural projects often entail human rights risks, including effects on livelihoods and access to water.

Together with Peruvian civil society organisation Codehica, Swedwatch highlighted how excessive water use from commercial vegetable production severely affected communities in the Ica Valley of Peru. 

As part of the collaboration, the report To the last drop called on companies importing produce from water-stressed areas to conduct human rights due diligence, while acknowledging the importance of vegetable production for local employment. After extensive dialogue with communities, civil society representatives, workers, producers and buyers, several companies pledged to ensure that conditions were improved.

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