Nubian Suns at Benban Solar Park

Shaping labour conditions and safety culture in Egypt

In late 2017, BII made a $92 million debt investment in Nubian Suns across nine projects. These plants form part of the Benban Solar Park, a power complex of 32 solar power plants with a 1,600-megawatt capacity developed near Aswan in Southern Egypt. It is set to become the largest solar photovoltaic park in the world, and forms an important part of Egypt’s Paris Commitments toward 20 per cent renewable energy by 2022.

Beyond the clear environmental impacts, BII saw a significant opportunity to have a positive social impact through robust approaches to health and safety and other labour practices. The relatively inexperienced workforce had low safety awareness, and there were many differing approaches to safety among the wide range of project sponsors and contractors. These projects illustrate the role lenders can play in shaping a strong health and safety culture, among other environmental and social aspects.

The ESG I team was conscious that requesting an ESMS from each of the project sponsors would have its limitations, so we worked together with other lenders to coordinate consistent approaches across projects. We were also mindful that independent auditing alone would not lead to the culture change that was needed. In order to create a culture of health and safety, we needed to change mindsets.

Working with the other lenders, we appointed an on-site advisory consultant specialising in the management of E&S risks, including health and safety. The consultant was asked to facilitate the development of a consistent set of construction operating procedures that reflected global best practices, develop an improved understanding of practical ESMS implementation, and identify training needs and resource gaps.

The intervention was targeted at project sponsors, the facilities management contractor and workers. The consultant designed training workshops to be delivered to multiple project participants together, fostering the exchange of information, lesson-learning and dialogue on environmental and social aspects between sponsors. These workshops were delivered on a range of aspects, including health and safety, labour and working conditions, traffic and transportation safety, community engagement, solid waste management, air quality monitoring and management planning.

Key to the workshops was providing participants with practical tools to implement the ESMS and put the training into practice. Using BII’s Code of Responsible Investing as a reference point, these tools were developed in areas including grievance management, workers’ accommodation, emergency response planning, vehicle inspection, noise and dust monitoring.

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