13 May 2019
A key focus of 2018 was determining our salient human rights issues – the human rights at risk of the most severe negative impact through a company’s activities and business relations. Through engagement with SHIFT, a not for profit organisation, we arrived at our four salient human rights issues.
“The assessment of salient human rights issues is focused on the perspectives of those individuals whose rights may be affected,” said Siobhan Toohill, Group Head of Sustainability at Westpac Group. “We could be connected to human rights risks due to our actions or via third party business relationships.”
Our salient human rights issues
A process of identification, assessment and prioritisation in each of our roles – as an employer, a customer, a financial services provider, a buyer and a supporter of communities – led us to focus on four salient human rights issues from a longer list of issues that we will continue to develop. These are:
- Respecting people’s privacy
- Customer vulnerability
- Exclusion and discrimination in employment
- Unfair wages and conditions for workers in our value chain.
Advancing human rights
In addition to assessing and identifying our salient human rights issues, we have continued to take steps to advance human rights in line with our 2020 Human Rights Action Plan. Highlights of this work have included:
- Becoming the first Australian business to sign the United Nations LGBTI Standards of Conduct in 2017
- Establishing a specialist team, with experience in areas such as health and social work, to help customers in highly complex vulnerable circumstances experiencing financial hardship
- Extending dementia-friendly banking services to BankSA and Bank of Melbourne
- Assessing 100% of our top suppliers on environmental, social and governance risks, including human rights
- Bringing together a number of our institutional customers to open a dialogue on initiatives to eradicate modern slavery and other severe human rights issues
- Assessing transactions/banking relationships for human rights risks, such as risks relating to labour standards, workplace health and safety, fair wages, forced, bonded or compulsory labour, Indigenous people’s rights and community rights
- Actively participating in government consultations on an Australian Modern Slavery Act.