Since investing in Brazilian biofuels in 2011, our business has grown rapidly, currently accounting for approximately 8% of BP’s total workforce globally. Of the 5,960 employees in our biofuels business, over half are agricultural workers employed at our three sugarcane mills in the remote towns of Edéia and Itumbiara in the Goiás region and Ituiutaba in Minas Gerais, over 200 kilometres apart.
The workers have varying levels of formal education and the majority have no access to computers. This presents challenges when it comes to helping them to understand the requirements of BP’s code of conduct and the channels available to them to raise a concern. Over the past five years, we have been working to address these challenges and create a supportive and open work environment.
We have developed innovative ways to bring ethics and compliance awareness to our agricultural employees and to better understand their concerns.
For example, we designed short, interactive plays to raise awareness, which were performed at the mills, covering topics such as how to raise concerns, health and safety, harassment in the workplace, appropriately exchanging gifts and entertainment, and protecting BP’s assets, using real life examples.
The plays were performed by professional actors between 2012 to 2015 and were recorded and are now shown to all new employees during their orientation session.
More than 1,000 agricultural workers were surveyed in 2015 to understand their attitudes on issues such as our code of conduct, speaking up about concerns, discrimination, retaliation and the working environment.
We found that employees‘ knowledge of BP's values and expected behaviours was high, as was their understanding of the importance of the code of conduct. But about half of our employees found that the working environment was difficult, with approximately a third perceiving conflict in the workplace.
In response, our biofuels business has been increasing the number of channels and opportunities for discussing ethics and compliance issues. Shorter, simpler and more frequent messages are helping our people to better understand and embed good ethical behaviour.
Related topics are discussed with managers each week at leadership team meetings and in a bi-monthly newsletter, which is shared with teams.
Team leaders have a key role in making sure all enquiries and concerns are properly addressed, and we provide leaders with training on this issue. We hold weekly ethics and compliance townhalls involving all employees at each of our three mills and we encourage our people to raise any issues at daily stand up meetings.
In addition, each mill now has a nominated ethics and compliance representative whose role includes offering support to other employees, promoting ethical ways of working and helping to identify ethics and compliance risks and resolve any issues promptly through the correct channels.
When we surveyed our employees again in 2016, their perceptions of their working environment had improved, as had their confidence to speak up at any time and their sense that their concerns are taken into consideration.