Environmental Rights

Company infringes on land rights and property interest of surrounding communities leading to displacement


Some projects, including but not limited to extractive, energy and utilities infrastructure may require large scale land acquisition. This carries the risk that local communities may not be adequately consulted or compensated, especially where rule of law conditions are weak. Unfair land acquisition practices and/or changes in land use which result in reduced access to farming, grazing areas, cultural heritage sites, or forest resources can lead to conflict and human rights abuses. Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to these impacts, and companies are expected to adhere to the principle of “free, prior, and informed consent” when carrying out projects on indigenous lands. Where land rights are abused, companies might violate the right to participate in cultural life, benefit from scientific progress, and protect intellectual property rights. Furthermore, land right abuse might undermine the right to own property.


In some cases, land rights are not enshrined in law or are the subject of conflicting laws, and thus attempts at resettlement are not fully understood or agreed by customary landowners. Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property,” while Article 25 states that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”



Relevant Human Rights Instruments

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Articles 17, 25 and 27
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, Article 15
ILO Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, 1989 (No.169)




SDG 1.4

Companies that take measures to ensure that land rights are not abused contribute to SDG 1.4: By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.



SDG 5.a

Business that seek to secure that women’s land rights are not abused contribute to SDG 5.a: Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.