Human rights

While we are not exposed to the same level of human rights risk as industries such as extractives, retail or textile, we see it as our duty to protect and promote the human rights of those involved in, or affected by, our business.

We have a strong commitment to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core standards of the International Labour Organization. This is explicitly incorporated in many of our internal policies, such as our Human Rights Policy, our Code of Conduct, and our Statement on Inclusion & Diversity.

Most potential risks we face are in our indirect business relationships and investments, which is why human rights are core to our Responsible Investment and Sustainable Procurement Policies.

When companies do not meet the standards outlined in our Responsible Investment Policy, we engage with them. For example, we've been part of the PRI collaborative engagement on Human rights and the Extractives Industry.

Human rights and supplier contracts

Our Sustainable Procurement Policy specifies what human rights we want our suppliers to uphold, and our updated Outsourcing & Supplier Risk Policy now requires our procurement functions to accommodate the human rights specified in the Sustainable Procurement Policy in our supplier contracts.

In our own operations, we have due diligence mechanisms and have incorporated human rights considerations in our business development activities. There have been instances over the year where we decided to not partner with certain parties because of concerns regarding their integrity.

Risk assessment

We carry out Aegon's global human rights risk assessment every two years to assure ourselves that we are not directly or indirectly complicit in human rights violations. Aegon's countries of operation are assessed for civil and political rights, corruption, human development, health coverage, business environment, illicit economy, gender equality, working conditions, Rule of Law and internet inclusion. This assessment is conducted internally, based on external sources, and is derived essentially from the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The assessment uses external data from (among others) Freedom House, Transparency International, UN Development Program and World Health Organization. We discuss the results with our local risk and compliance officers and senior management.

Our 2018 assessment identified four 'Aegon' countries where the operating environment presents a meaningful human rights risk: China, Indonesia, India and Turkey. These risks relate essentially to local political factors. In the US, the Netherlands and UK, Aegon faces little or no significant human rights risk. In Southern and Eastern Europe, the environment is potentially more difficult, particularly with regard to corruption. In the Americas, risk is concentrated in Brazil and Mexico; again, this relates mainly to corruption.

For those countries with highest risk, Aegon has recommended preventative or remedial measures for local management. These focus on issues where there is greatest risk and where Aegon has most influence (corruption, corporate governance, discrimination in the workplace, working conditions, freedom of association and collective bargaining). The recommended measures include effective access to Aegon's Global Ethics Line, raising employees' awareness of human rights risk, ensuring basic healthcare and financial services for employees, suggesting alternative employee representation where there is no independent trade union, ensuring neutrality at times of regime change and enforcing a zero tolerance approach to corruption and discrimination in the workplace. The aim, with these measures, is to ensure Aegon's overall human rights risk remains low.

We continue to engage with our units on improving our policies, practices and risk assessment tools and will carry out our next Human Rights Risk Assessment in 2020.