An Equitable Green Transition:An Analysis of the Wind Energy Supply Chain: The Case of Human Rights Risks in the Chinese Rare Earth Industry

Tereza Kramlova & Grace Lyndsay Livingstone

Student thesis: Master thesis


With growing concern around climate change, there is a need for countries to shift to renewable energy. Given this unprecedented shift away from fossil fuels and given the vast mobilisation of resources required to scale up green energy, actors must be aware of the negative impacts this transformation may create. In order to ensure an equitable transition to renewable energy, this master thesis identifies human rights risks present in the supply chain of wind energy companies. Specifically, the thesis examines the sourcing of rare earth elements used in wind turbines. The research uncovers several salient human rights risks from the mining, processing and waste management present in the Chinese rare earth supply chain, where the majority of global supply originates. By critically analysing 30 expert interviews and a range of documents, this unique case uncovers several country-specific and company-specific mechanisms that have hindered the mitigation of human rights risks. The research applies the human rights due diligence framework, along with stakeholder, global governance, global value chain governance and sustainable supply chain management theories to find the root cause of the mitigation barriers and offer tailored recommendations to address them. On a country-level, rare earth supply chains should be established outside of China, and to address the company-level issues, wind energy companies have to embed HRRR. The paper concludes by arguing that binding regulation is needed in order to secure effective change and improve human rights standards throughout the rare earth supply chain.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages127