Jump to section


Respect for Human Rights

View Sumitomo Corporation's Sustainability : Respect for Human Rights

Sumitomo Corporation Group’s Human Rights Policy

Established in May 2020

Sumitomo Corporation declares in its management principles that it aims to be a global organization that contributes broadly to society and places prime importance on utmost respect for the individual. We will respect human rights to fulfill our corporate social responsibility, and pursue sustainable growth with society.

Sumitomo Corporation became a signatory in 2009 to the “Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact”, which advocates for values common to its own management principles, including those regarding human rights and labor. We also respect the “International Bill of Human Rights” and the International Labor Organization’s “Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work”, and we operate in accordance with the “United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.

  1. Scope of application
    Sumitomo Corporation endeavors to ensure that all executives and employees within its group fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights. In addition, we encourage our suppliers and business partners to accept, understand and practice this policy so that we can work together to fulfill our social responsibilities, including respect for human rights in the relevant value chain.
  2. Human rights due diligence
    Sumitomo Corporation strives to identify and to prevent or mitigate any adverse impact on human rights through the application of human rights due diligence processes. Where we identify that our group’s practices have caused or contributed to an adverse impact on human rights, we will endeavor to take appropriate remedial measures.
  3. Compliance with relevant laws
    Sumitomo Corporation will comply with national and regional laws and regulations applicable to its group operations. When those laws and regulations are incompatible with internationally recognized human rights, we will seek to employ measures to respect international human rights norms.
  4. Stakeholder engagement
    Sumitomo Corporation will seek to improve and progress human rights measures through engagement and dialogue with relevant stakeholders.
  5. Education
    Sumitomo Corporation will appropriately educate its executives and employees within its group in order to ensure that this human rights policy is understood and implemented effectively.
  6. Reporting
    Sumitomo Corporation will disclose appropriate information regarding its efforts to respect human rights.

See: Efforts to Address the UN Global Compact

Compliance with labor-related global standards and laws

The Sumitomo Corporation Group is addressing human rights issues. While complying with laws and regulations in our countries of operation, we support and respect the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, as well as the International Labour Organization’s core labor standards of ten conventions in five areas: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor, effective abolition of child labor, elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation, and occupational safety and health. With regard to the elimination of discrimination in particular, we have clearly stated that no person should be discriminated against due to human race, nationality, gender, religion, creed, age, origin, physical or mental disability, or other reasons that are not related to business operations. We are also complying with minimum wage requirements based on the labor standards and labor conventions of each country.

Respect for the rights of children

As the world population is mostly made up of children and younger generations, the Sumitomo Corporation Group is aware that its corporate activities have an impact on the lives of children both directly and indirectly. For companies, children are family members of employees, as well as important stakeholders who will play future roles in the sustainable development of society. Based on this recognition, we signed the United Nations Global Compact in its support of the Ten Principles, and respect Children’s Rights and Business Principles. We are committed to preventing the violation of children’s rights through our business and social contribution activities.

Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples

As part of its commitment to respect human rights, the Sumitomo Corporation Group respects global standards pertaining to the rights of indigenous peoples, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the principle of “free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).” In business operations in areas where indigenous peoples reside, we recognize their unique culture and history and comply with applicable laws and regulations of each country or region.

Concept concerning the use of security companies

In the operation of its business in countries around the globe, the Sumitomo Corporation Group uses security companies to protect the safety and security of its employees. When necessary, we may use armed security personnel, recognizing the human rights risks involved and complying with laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate. We select security companies in accordance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

DFF Inc.

Implementation and Progress of Human Rights Due Diligence

In accordance with the Sumitomo Corporation Group Human Rights Policy, Sumitomo Corporation began human rights due diligence in 2020 so that we can identify, prevent, and correct how we address any adverse human rights impact that the Group business activities may cause or contribute to. In FY2021, we expanded applicability to all our businesses, and started conducting human rights due diligence by the business unit, according to our medium-term goal, of “Strengthen risk analysis in human rights due diligence to accurately assess risks in all businesses, including the supply chain, and implement risk mitigation measures by 2025.” Following on identifying and assessing risks in the Media & Digital Business Unit and Living Related & Real Estate Business Unit in FY2021, we identified and assessed human rights risks in all Strategic Business Units (SBUs) of the Infrastructure Business Unit and Mineral Resources, Energy, Chemical & Electronics Business Unit in FY2022. Our human rights due diligence is conducted through a process in accordance with international guidelines including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, United Nations Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, and OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

Process of Human Rights Due Diligence in Business Units

After conducting a desktop survey in which we identified human rights issues, mainly but not limited to our eight salient human rights issues and referred to the actual cases of human rights risks which occurred in global business activities of ourselves or other companies, we have been conducting human rights due diligence starting from business units whose businesses are considered to have relatively higher human rights risks.

Interviewing all related SBUs of both business units with the support from outside experts, we confirmed the situation in each business and actual human rights risks including the impact on stakeholders, such as local residents and others related to the supply chain and business activities of each business. Besides, we identified potential risks that could be anticipated and discussed the status of any responses being taken. In light of these findings, and from the perspectives of the possibility to materialize human rights risks which we identified and their severity if materialized, we prioritized SBUs, or individual businesses within SBUs, to focus our prevention and mitigation effort on. With the cooperation of the Corporate Sustainability Department and relevant SBUs and group companies, we are now considering and implementing concrete measures to prevent or mitigate the identified human rights risks.

We will identify and assess human rights risks in other business units as well, and implement measures to prevent or mitigate those human rights risks in each SBU. Through ongoing monitoring of each, we will also implement the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle to identify new initiatives.

Please see here more details on our human rights due diligence.

Process of Human Rights Due Diligence in Business Units
  • Also promote human rights due diligence in SBUs/businesses other than those identified in human rights due diligence by department.

Completed in FY2022

In FY2022, we identified and assessed actual and potential human rights risks in all SBUs of the Infrastructure Business Unit and Mineral Resources, Energy, Chemical & Electronics Business Unit, and confirmed the status of concrete initiatives, such as supplier surveys and improvement activities, for human rights risks of concern associated with the character of the business (product or region, etc.). As for some of the human rights risks identified through discussions, we will consider and implement further strengthening measures. In addition to the promoting of the understanding and entrenchment of the company’s responsibility to respect human rights to officers and employees of the Sumitomo Corporation Group, through this process, we are driving concrete initiatives for human rights education based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In FY2022, we conducted a training program for all officers and employees of Sumitomo Corporation and achieved our medium-term goal of 100% participation rate.

Infrastructure Business Unit

Eight Salient Human Rights Issues
 in the Group’s business
Main human rights issues Identified actual and potential risks Assessment and countermeasures
Occupational health and safety,
Labor conditions
  • Infrastructure Business Unit has many projects that have sites such as construction sites, where workers' working conditions and health and safety must be taken into consideration.
  • Confirmed that all businesses are highly aware of the importance of occupational health and safety management, including employee training.
  • Confirmed that there is a system in place to check whether working conditions are appropriate through dialogue with workers, etc., and to take action as necessary, and that no serious problems are currently occurring.
Health and safety of local residents,
Land rights
  • In infrastructure business that procure and use natural resources, it is necessary to give due consideration to respecting the human rights of local residents upstream in the supply chain.
  • For the upstream supply chain of natural resources used, the process of confirming social and environmental risks has been strengthened, taking into consideration the impact on local residents.
Health and safety of local residents,
Land rights,
Labor conditions
  • For infrastructure businesses that involve land development, construction work, and infrastructure facility operation in each country region, it is important to have a system that leads to prompt and careful engagement with local residents and workers involved and appropriate actions.
  • Confirmed that dialogue with local residents is carefully conducted in all of the projects, including the holding of preliminary explanatory meetings about the projects and daily communication at the local offices.

Mineral Resources, Energy, Chemical & Electronics Business Unit

Eight Salient Human Rights Issues
 in the Group’s business
Main human rights issues Identified actual and potential risks Assessment and countermeasures
Labor conditions,
Occupational health and safety
  • In the mining and manufacturing businesses, there is a high risk of issues with working conditions and occupational health and safety for workers.
  • Confirm that there is a safety management promotion system (occupational accident risk reduction process, occupational accident rate targets and measures to achieve them) at the group companies, and that there are no problems with the PDCA process, including prevention of recurrence of accidents when they occur. We also confirmed that there are no problems with working conditions.
Forced labor and child labor
  • In the manufacturing and trading businesses, there are concerns about the risk of human rights abuses, including working conditions and forced labor, at the top of the supply chain.
  • Confirm traceability of procured items with suppliers, and inform them of the Group's "CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains" and "Human Rights Policy," and consider further reducing the risk of human rights violations in the supply chain.
Labor conditions,
Health and safety of local residents,
Land rights
  • In the mining business, employee compensation (for finding new jobs, etc.) and impacts on local communities and neighboring environments must be kept in mind when closing mines. These considerations must also be incorporated into mine closure plans.
  • For mining operations that have already submitted closure plans to the government, we confirmed that the mine closure plan has been in dialogue with the community for many years during the process of establishing the closure plan, and that the plan also describes rehabilitation activities to stabilize the mining area after the closure of the mine.
Labor conditions
  • In the mining and manufacturing businesses, it is preferable to develop mechanisms for obtaining employee feedback (speak-up system, suggestion box, etc.).
  • SC Global Speak-Up is available at our group companies. Some group companies are considering the establishment of a Speak-Up system or a reference box, if necessary.
  • In the mining business and other businesses, Sumitomo Corporation is a minor investor in many of their businesses. It is important to have a system for rapid sharing of information, including actual human rights abuses and the status of measures, from major investors to Sumitomo Corporation.
  • In some businesses, discussions were held with the majority investor to ensure that information was shared with us by the majority investor at board meetings and in reports after the incident occurred.

Completed in FY2021

Media & Digital Business Unit

Eight Salient Human Rights Issues
 in the Group’s business
Main human rights issues Identified actual and potential risks Assessment and countermeasures
Labor conditions,
Forced labor and child labor
  • Concern about human rights issues in supply chain: indirect suppliers and subcontractors.
  • To establish human rights policies and procurement policies and publicize to suppliers. To understand actual human right situation of supply chain.
Discrimination and harassment
  • Discriminatory statements and expressions may be included in the video distribution, entertainment content and advertisements.
  • To consider risk prevention and mitigation measures, such as warning related staffs and introducing education programs for them.
Personal information
  • Personal information leaks and privacy violations especially in digital marketing business.
  • Confirmed that each business has been aware of the risks and has been working thoroughly to ensure legal compliance.
The right to know and freedom of expression
  • The overseas telecommunications business is subject to the risk of infringement of the right to know and freedom of expression by shutting down or interception of communications.
  • To continue initiatives to contribute to respect for human rights in the Myanmar telecommunications business based on human rights assessments.
New human rights issues
(AI and data)
  • Discrimination or privacy violations may occur through the use of data or algorithms.
  • To conduct survey and case studies on the trends of legal and governance.

Living Related & Real Estate Business Unit

Eight Salient Human Rights Issues
 in the Group’s business
Main human rights issues Identified actual and potential risks Assessment and countermeasures
Labor conditions (wages and working hours),
Occupational health and safety
  • In the real estate related business, attention must be paid to labor conditions and occupational health and safety of not only to parties contracting directly with our company but also of parties related to the supply chain, including construction contractors and property-owning management contractors.
  • Room to further consider broad communication of human rights and procurement policies when in discussions or contracting with construction contractors and other subcontracting business partners.
Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
  • It is important to establish mechanisms for obtaining feedback from workers, including employees on agricultural land, in respect to the freedom of association and right to collective bargaining.
  • Confirm that initiatives are being implemented to develop human rights due diligence processes, including interviews with employees, and to establish and publicize contact points for listening to the opinions of workers and other stakeholders.
Forced labor and child labor
  • Some domestic businesses are employing foreign technical trainees.
  • The food distribution business must be on the lookout for forced labor and child labor upstream (agricultural land) in the supply chain.
  • Confirm that consideration is being given to understanding the employment situation of the foreign technical trainees and to preventing adverse impacts on the workers in terms of labor conditions and occupational health and safety. Going forward, continue efforts to maintain and improve the working environment through regular discussions with the interns themselves.
  • Confirm that initiatives are being implemented to investigate and improve the situation after risks are materialized, and to identify and investigate supply chains with a high potential risk.
Land rights,
Health and safety of local residents
  • In the real estate related business, preparations must be made for situations that impact land rights and the day-to-day lives of local residents.
  • Confirm legal compliance and briefings/discussions with local governments and communities.

Preventing and Mitigating of Materialization of Human Rights Risks with Follow-up and Monitoring

Timelines and ways of responding to human rights risks vary according to a number of factors, including the severity of the risks and their level of involvement with each business. For this reason, each SBU and each group company should be responsible for their responses to the related human rights risks. For risks identified and assessed through our human rights due diligence, each SBU and each group company prioritizes the risks based on their severity of the impact, incorporates them into concrete action plans, and implements the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle. Monitoring of the progress of such actions is then integrated into the following-up concrete initiatives aiming to achieve the long-term and medium-term goals to address key social issues of the Sumitomo Corporation Group and continually checked. In addition, the Corporate Sustainability Department supports each SBU and business’s action, as necessary.

DFF Inc.

Grievance Mechanism(Whistleblower report for external stakeholders)

In addition to an internal whistleblower system for employees, we accept opinions and grievance from external stakeholders, including the general public and customers.
Since FY2024, we have been a regular member of the Japan Center for Engagement and Remedy on Business and Human Rights (JaCER), a general incorporated association that provides a platform for redress of grievances in compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and we accept various opinions on human rights from external stakeholders on the platform provided by JaCER. We accept opinions through a third party with expertise to improve fairness and transparency. Besides, the content of grievance is reported to the management, including Chief Sustainability, DE&I Officer and the Corporate Sustainability Committee, to ensure that issues are corrected and prevented from recurrence in a timely and appropriate manner.

In dealing with the report, we ensure that the whistleblower and related parties will not suffer any disadvantages as a result of reporting, and we protect the privacy and confidentiality of the whistleblower.

Report Form of JaCER

The progress and results of the response to the received report will be disclosed on the Grievance List on the JaCER website.

DFF Inc.

The Statement for the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015

We set out the steps Sumitomo Corporation has taken to help ensure that modern slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in SC's business or supply chains. The statement has been approved by the board of directors of Sumitomo Corporation.

FY2022 Statement

DFF Inc.

Training Seminars on Human Rights

Sumitomo Corporation Group’s business activities cover a wide range of countries, regions and industrial fields. As per our Human Rights Policy, we consider that we have a responsibility to work with suppliers and business partners, instead of acting alone, to ensure respect for human rights throughout the entire supply chain. Since FY2014, we have conducted some activities such as seminars with external experts and e-learning program for officers and employees of the Group regarding the necessity of taking actions throughout the supply chain for respect of human rights and human rights issues that are necessary to be paid special attention through business activities. The seminars cover a wide range of topics, including the relationship between business and human rights, actual cases that the reputation of the company was harmed due to their inappropriate response to human rights issues and the way of identification and assess the influence of human rights. Comments from seminar participants include “Since the Group is engaged in diverse business activities all around the world, we should continue awareness-raising activities so that as many employees as possible can better understand relevant issues”. With the great responsibility and role of companies in respecting human rights, and the importance of every employees involved in business activities understanding of and having an attitude to respect for human rights, we work hard to spread and instill respect for human rights through training and other programs.

DFF Inc.

AI and Human Rights

While AI, advanced technology, enriches people's lives, it is globally pointed out that its development, operation, and utilization may lead to human rights issues such as invasion of privacy and algorithmic discrimination. Recognizing the need to prevent such human rights issues, the Group closely monitors guidelines and discussions of government agencies, academic societies as well as practices conducted by other companies. As we pursue digital transformation (DX) in our various business areas, we will continuously address to ensure that we do not cause human rights violations by protecting the privacy of our customers and users, and preventing unfair discrimination.

DFF Inc.

Activity Description

Human Rights Initiatives at Fyffes

Fyffes plc, one of our group companies and, one of the world’s leading companies in the production and wholesaling of fresh produce, is the only company in its sector to have completed three years of human rights due diligence, starting in 2019. The most recent Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) was finalized in 2023 and conducted independently by the expert organization BSR. The HRIA updated previous findings, strengthen understanding of its human rights' salient issues across key value chains and geographies and assess and strengthen current level of management. In addition, the Assessment assessed human rights impact and opportunity specific to its operations in three countries. As such, site-visits were conducted Colombia and Honduras, and a remote, desk-based assessment in Guatemala, to better understand risk profiles and identify opportunities for mitigation and remediation of identified impacts.

In addition to HRIAs, Fyffes has conducted Community Needs Assessment (CNA) in five countries’ local communities surrounding our operations, acknowledging their concerns and interests while managing or mitigating the potential or actual risks that our operations may have on them. Over 2,200 people were interviewed anonymously as part of the CNAs.

Regarding a grievance mechanism, Fyffes has already implemented a global, independent grievance mechanism, available in the language of our employees via telephone or online since April 2019. In accordance with the mitigation plan, it was agreed to run a broader campaign internally to make sure that all employees were aware of the hotline. Fyffes does not tolerate any forced labor nor migrant human rights violations and continues to conduct and participate in internal and third-party ethical and social audits, including Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) audits throughout a large proportion of its supply chain, such as Fyffes owned farms, various grower partners and ripening facilities. In the UK, Fyffes Group Ltd has regular audits on its labor providers and investigates any signs of forced labor, e.g. retention of passports etc. Fyffes has formed a Human Rights Core Team and they are responsible for implementing mitigation measures to address the salient human rights risks. Fyffes has committed to conducting a human rights impact assessment annually with an independent consultant every third year. In August 2023, Fyffes published its second Human Rights Report, way ahead of its competitors and the vast majority of its customers.

In 2021, Fyffes published its first Sustainability Report. The report shared its 13 ambitious sustainability targets under the four focus areas "Stewardship for the Planet," "Enriching People’s Lives," "Healthy Food for Healthy Lives," and "Fyffes Principles of Responsible Business Conduct.“ Fyffes sustainability targets are aligned to nine United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and include six targets relating to human rights, including a commitment to train 100% of its employees, contractors and supply chain workers on human rights. Fyffes second Sustainability Report is published in September 2023.

Sustainability Report
Human rights Report

Supplier Management in the Foods Business

We also urge suppliers and other trading partners as well as business partners to take action in order to promote respect for human rights throughout entire value chains related to Sumitomo Corporation Group businesses. As a specialized food and food products trading company that is involved in all processes from product development to selection of production areas in regions around the world, procurement of ingredients, production and processing management, logistics, and domestic distribution, SC Foods Co., Ltd. conducts supply chain management so that it can provide safe, reassuring, and high-quality products that take into consideration sustainability including respect for human rights. When selecting new suppliers, SC Foods Co., Ltd. conducts data surveys, and when determined to be necessary, also performs on-site visits. With regard to existing suppliers, more detailed questionnaire surveys are conducted of suppliers of products such as coffee, sugar, and sesame seed from certain countries with high human rights risks to confirm that there are no issues. To strengthen these management cycles even further, SC Foods introduced a system of implementing on-site inspections once every five years, even with respect to existing suppliers in 2019. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult to conduct on-site inspections, so SC Foods have initiated investigate alternate methods such as remote inspections.

Human Rights Audit Implemented at Thailand Chicken Processing Plants

In March 2019, with the appointment of external experts, Sumitomo Corporation implemented a human rights audit at three chicken processing plants operated by Thai business partners. Cases have come to light in Thailand of infringement of the human rights of foreign workers in labor-intensive industries such as poultry rearing, seafood processing, and garment manufacture. We make periodic visits to the processing plants of its business partners to check that regulations on human rights and other areas are stringently observed. This audit was carried out with particular focus on the work environment of foreign employees.

The audit team visited the plant and the employees’ dormitory to check for forced overtime working, confiscation of identification documents, and labor health and safety issues, which are cited as common human rights risks in the poultry industry. In addition, employees of non-Thai nationality from Cambodia, Myanmar, and other countries were randomly selected for interview. The audit found no human rights issues relating to foreign workers at any of the three locations and the processing plants demonstrated proactive communication with us and a strong commitment to further improvement of operations.

To fulfill its social responsibility in the supply chain, Sumitomo Corporation Group will continue to address human rights issues in its relationships with important suppliers and to carry out audits, taking account of local conditions and industry practices in those countries and regions with concerns over human rights risk.

Black Economic Empowerment Act in South Africa

Due to the history of apartheid in South Africa, there are policies that aim to reduce inequality in rights and opportunities for black people to participate in economic activities and to improve their social status. It is required to include at least a certain number of black companies in a business project and to give back part of the profits to the community.

To comply with such policies, Dorper Wind Farm company, in which we invest, offers cooperation in improving the living environment of local residents and creating new jobs. Specific efforts include donation of equipment and refurbishment of buildings at kindergartens, schools and hospitals located close to the power plant, and support to restaurants operated by black women. Through these activities, we appoint local companies where possible. A portion of the shares of Dorper Wind Farm company are owned by local sponsors run by local residents and dividends distributed to such sponsors are used for various projects that meet the needs of local residents.

Dialogue with Local Residents in Mining Projects

In promoting resource development projects, understanding of local areas is essential. In the development project of the Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar, we have taken the initiative in having dialogues with the government and local residents, in cooperation with the diplomatic corps and lending banks group since the start of the development. We use these dialogues to share our belief that “this project is extremely important to the future of Madagascarˮ and deepen the mutual understanding of the significance of the project. In the Ambatovy project, we also promote the employment of people in Madagascar and improve their skills. In FY2022, about 90% of all workers are Madagascar people, and we are systematically working on technology transfer and human resource development for them. We have a complaint system to receive any kind of complaints, including human rights violations, in cooperation with local communities, in order to prevent accidents associated with the project and address them if they occur. Employees and external stakeholders are eligible to access this system. Project staff appropriately respond to complaints while protecting personal information. Since 2016, the Ambatovy project has joined the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) program in partnership with NGOs, the Madagascar government and other countries' embassies.

An elementary school built within the project site

DFF Inc.