USCIB Advocates Multilateralism, Partnerships, Vaccine Acceptance During HLPF

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was drastically different, necessitating a virtual platform as hundreds of governments, NGOs, and civil society tuned in remotely to side-events rather than congregating at the UN headquarters in New York. Despite the challenges of a remote HLPF, USCIB retained its active leadership role, co-organizing side-events on inclusive multilateralism, the private sector’s role in educating the public about vaccines, and partnerships to fight COVID-19 and to advance the UN 2030 Development Agenda.

Inclusive Multilateralism

USCIB kicked off the week with a side-event on “Inclusive Multilateralism in Action: Working Together to Build Stronger, Resilient and Sustainable Economies” on July 7. USCIB, which serves as co-chair of the UN’s Business and Industry Major Group, partnered with the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the UN Global Compact, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the American Chemistry Council on the event. Dialogue among experts during the panels highlighted synergies at the national and global levels of COVID-19 response and recovery with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and made the case of mainstreaming private sector partnership and expertise into the UN Decade of Action and Delivery.

The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) Initiative Executive Director Dr. Scott Ratzan spoke on one of the panels alongside, First Vice Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Maria Fernanda Garza, Secretary General, International Organization of Employers (IOE) Roberto Suarez Santos and UN Global Compact Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo. USCIB Vice President for International Strategic Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy moderated a panel which explored best practices from business in developing partnerships to address food security, health and waste management challenges, all of which have become more difficult for the global community to tackle in light of COVID-19.

“The presentations highlighted the role of business as ‘first responders’ in several key areas of the pandemic response,” said Kennedy. In concluding the panel, Kennedy summed up what is needed as businesses merge their SDG plans with crisis response and recovery: “Inclusive multilateralism involving and mainstreaming private sector dialogue and implementation is not a nice-to-have; it is a must-have for a successful UN Decade of Delivery, Action and Recovery.”

Partnerships

BPSD was also featured at a July 7 side-event organized by the UN 2030 Agenda Partnership Accelerator. Titled “Partnerships against COVID-19 – building back better together to advance the 2030 Agenda,” the event explored how partnerships can assist developing countries in addressing challenges of the coronavirus and its aftermath while promoting synergies between key sectors, such as the scientific and technological community and the private sector. Ratzan, representing BPSD, joined a select group of experts including Sustainable Development Officer, Division for Sustainable Development Goals, UN DESA Ola Goransson, Resident Coordinator, Mauritius and Seychelles Christine N. Umutoni and Professor and Department Chair of Development Sociology, Cornell University, member of the Independent Group of Scientists for the Global Sustainable Development Report Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue.

Scientific Advances and Vaccination Acceptance

BPSD Executive Director Scott Ratzan

BPSD, together with the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy organized “COVID-19 vaccines: scientific advances, access models and vaccination acceptance,” on July 10 to explore the status of scientific research advances, implications for policy, and generating public trust in science and building vaccine literacy, and addressing misleading vaccine information.

“Despite the major technological advances that have enlisted industry to fast track a COVID-19 vaccine, all these efforts will be for nought if not enough people accept a vaccine to reach the necessary community protection, also termed herd immunity,” warned Ratzan. “Vaccine hesitancy threatens uptake for a COVID-19 vaccine before it has even been developed. Anti-vaccination advocates are spreading disinformation and inciting fears including vaccine side effects, safety and/or efficacy. Compounding these ongoing issues is a reality in which globally, many do not believe COVID-19 is a real threat. While we are not sure how entrenched these groups are in their disbelief of the risks of coronavirus infection or believe the pandemic is a conspiracy,  there is much work to do to build vaccine literacy and combat a pervasive anti-science, anti-truth rhetoric.”

Ratzan also presented “The CONVINCE Initiative” (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Education), which will bring together key players in a multisectoral collaboration to formulate a whole-of-society approach to create frameworks, best practices and platforms to ensure vaccine uptake.

Kennedy Speaks on Border Carbon Adjustments, Carbon Pricing

While the UNFCCC postponed its 26th Conference of the Parties to next year, USCIB has remained active in its policy advocacy on international climate change. Most recently, USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Environment and Energy Norine Kennedy spoke in a virtual “USA-EU Town Hall on Border Carbon Adjustments.”

The June 17 event was organized by the European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition (ERCST) and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.

“Border Carbon Adjustment cannot be viewed in isolation; it is connected to carbon pricing, taxation and carbon offsets, that need to be taken into consideration when discussing this topic,” said Kennedy during her remarks.

The town hall discussion focused on the role that Border Carbon Adjustments (BCAs) may play as part of the EU Green Deal proposal and associated stimulus package.  This concept aims to tackle asymmetry in climate ambition under the Paris Agreement, from carbon leakage and competitiveness standpoints.

“We need to develop and design policies that are fit for purpose and work in synergy with multilateral trade in order to successfully overcome climate challenges and fulfil the Paris Agreement goals,” added Kennedy.

USCIB strongly favors multilateral cooperative approaches and policies not only in the climate space, but also via the United Nations and other international organizations.

Global Industry Urges G20 to Promote Innovation, Digital Tech, Trade

USCIB joined a global group of like-minded industry and trade associations to urge the G20 to work with industry to encourage the open markets and accelerated technology adoption that will drive groundbreaking innovations and creative solutions, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter states: “This will require reaffirmed commitments to reject protectionism, support rules-based multilateral organizations, best practices, processes, and obligations, embrace transparency in legislative and regulatory actions, and invest in the workforce. Such commitments should be taken with a view to prioritizing the enhancement and generation of business opportunities for micro, small, and medium size enterprises (MSMEs) and continued advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means of ensuring inclusive recovery across economies.

In general, the global industry group welcomes the renewed discussion at the G20 this year on the role of digital technologies in promoting economic growth through cross-border innovation and trade. As such, the group recommended several actions including facilitating a global response to the COVID-19 outbreak, advancing global date free flows with trust (DFFT), promoting cross-border innovation and adoption of new technologies, as well as ensuring the benefits of technology are realized by all.

According to the industry group, G20 2019 was a groundbreaking year for the advancement of global digital policy discussions. Under Japan’s leadership, the G20 launched the Osaka Track to accelerate and support the ongoing digital trade discussions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and created the concept of Data Free Flows with Trust (DFFT) in recognition of the fact that open cross-border data flows are the lifeblood of all industries, and that strong protections for privacy and cybersecurity go hand-in-hand with the transparent, non-discriminatory transfer of data across borders. G20 2020 offers governments the opportunity to advance this work towards an open, inclusive vision of the modern global economy.

Robinson Reiterates Commitment to Responsible Business Conduct

Robinson participates virtually in the OECD Global Forum

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson participated virtually in the annual OECD Global Forum on COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), which was held on May 19.

The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically disrupted business and exposed major vulnerabilities in the economy and global supply chains. The event gathered thought leaders from government and business, trade unions, civil society, academia and international organizations to discuss how responsible business conduct can build value and more resilient supply chains in a post-COVID-19 world and how we can use the ongoing pandemic to integrate responsible business thinking into policies and action to bring remedy to people, meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and tackle climate change.

Speakers, including Robinson, discussed a variety of themes including the promotion of business responsibility in a post-COVID-19 world; the role of responsible business conduct in government support and recovery packages and how innovative engagement across stakeholders can promote responsible and resilient supply chains.

Robinson spoke on a panel titled, Building Value: The Role of RBC in Government Support and Recovery Packages. “Business is committed to RBC as highlighted in the MNE Guidelines,” emphasized Robinson. “RBC is good business and the crisis is not an excuse to fail to uphold responsible business conduct. In fact, there are many examples of companies already contributing meaningfully to relief and recovery in terms of donations of personal protection equipment, retrofitting production to produce needed emergency supplies, addressing employee safety, etc.”

USCIB has advocated with the U.S. Department of State to mobilize multilateral development bank assistance for vulnerable economies, particularly for social protection systems and rapid access to relief funds to SMEs to prevent closures and provide funding to workers until they can get back to work.

The annual OECD Global Forum has become the leading event for governments, businesses, trade unions and civil society to promote international dialogue on RBC and contribute to the effective implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

USCIB Congratulates Colombia on Formally Becoming OECD Member

Pictured from left: Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD (Photo: OECD/Victor Tonelli)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that Colombia has formally become an OECD Member as of April 28, 2020. Colombia is the 37th country to do so in the Organization’s near 60-year history.

According to the OECD, Colombia has now completed its domestic procedures for ratification of the OECD Convention and deposited its instrument of accession. This brings to a successful conclusion an accession process that began in 2013.

“Colombia is an important market for many companies, and we commend Colombia on successfully concluding this lengthy process and committing to the high standards of the OECD,” said USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services Eva Hampl. As the official voice representing U.S. business in this process, USCIB was actively involved in providing input into Colombia’s accession process via Business at OECD (BIAC), the official business voice at the OECD.

OECD Member countries formally invited Colombia to join the Organization in May 2018, following a five-year accession process during which it underwent in-depth reviews by twenty-three OECD Committees and introduced major reforms to align its legislation, policies and practices to OECD standards. These spanned the breadth of policy fields including labor issues, reform of the justice system, corporate governance of state-owned enterprises, anti-bribery, trade, and the establishment of a national policy on industrial chemicals and waste management.

Michener Shares USCIB’s COVID-19 Response with ICC Americas Group

At a recent virtual meeting of the ICC Americas group, USCIB Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener discussed USCIB’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, which first and foremost, is to continue important functions as the entire USCIB team works from home in the New York and Washington metro areas.

“We are still representing member interests in multilateral institutions while highlighting individual company responses in tandem with international organizations, and featuring the important work of global affiliates such as International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), as well as the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (known as BIAC),” said Michener.

According to Michener, USCIB is also flexing its institutional muscle as a thought leader in the nexus between business and the multilateral system, publishing op-eds and press releases, and promoting partnerships with international organizations through its new venture Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD).

Michener outlined how USCIB is fulfilling its function in representing member interests through virtual events; all committee meetings have been converted into a virtual format and USCIB continues to engage with global partners on events, such as the one held on April 29 with the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs on SDG 17 & Public-Private Partnerships: COVID-19 Response & Recovery in the Framework of the 2030 Agenda.

“We are proud to share the work being done related to COVID-19 across the world by our global network of affiliates on our web page, in particular focusing on ICC’s partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the ICC campaign to Save our MSMEs and ICC actions via the G20,” added Michener.

USCIB continues to spotlight what member companies are doing to address the COVID-19 crisis; featured companies include ExxonMobil, Qualcomm, Procter & Gamble, Nike, SAP, Google, Amazon, Apple, CenturyLink, IBM, AT&T, Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Mastercard, Salesforce, Microsoft and HanesBrand, with additional spotlights in the pipeline.

More information can be found on this web page: Ensuring Business Continuity During COVID-19

IOE Hosts Digital Conference of COVID Impact on Global Trade, Supply Chains, Employment

The International Organization of Employers’ (IOE) hosted a digital conference on the impact of COVID-19 on global trade, supply chains and employment on April 8. The conference addressed the “pause button” placed on the global economy in efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and endeavored to answer questions such as: whether trade activities will return to normal, how many jobs will be lost, whether companies can continue producing and whether global production chains will be revamped after the crisis.

USCIB Senior Director, Investment Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl participated as a speaker.

In her comments, Hampl emphasized the importance of maintaining an open trade and investment climate, pointing to these conditions as being necessary to rebuild the economy post crisis.

“USCIB is working with our various partners and affiliates to develop policy that looks toward addressing the current problems, but also retaining the structures that work, and rebuilding those that were affected by the crisis,” said Hampl. “Right now the global economy is still in triage and international cooperation is key at this moment. High level statements like the G20 leaders’ statement committing to work with the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, United Nations and others to address the crisis, or the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Customs Organization (WCO) coming together in a joint statement pledging to work together to facilitate trade in essential goods such as medical supplies, food and energy, are necessary and welcome to business at this time. As the global economy deals with this crisis and looks to rebuilding, business will be a key driver and partner of the recovery process.”

Business at OECD Head Shares 2020 Policy Priorities With USCIB

Business at OECD’s Russel Mills (left, center) with IOE’s Shea GoPaul and USCIB policy staff

Secretary General of Business at OECD (BIAC) Russel Mills visited USCIB’s Washington DC and New York offices the week of February 3 to update staff on Business at OECD and OECD priorities for the year.

Mills shared that environment, biodiversity, plastics and climate change issues are moving to the top of the agenda, however there will also be a mushrooming of digitization plans and digital economy work related to changing business models and digitally enabled companies. Mills also noted that policies around digital taxation and re-skilling will be on top of the agenda for both organizations.

“We really valued our time with Russel, which gave us an opportunity to touch base on our respective organizations’ policy priorities,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “USCIB looks forward to a productive year working with BIAC to help drive the work of the OECD.”

USCIB Adopts Carbon Offset Program for Employee International Travel

USCIB today announced that it has initiated a program to support carbon offsets for its employees’ international travel.

This initiative reflects USCIB’s continuous engagement in international climate policy deliberations supporting U.S. private sector engagement and solutions towards GHG emissions reduction, adaptation and resilience, and its recognition of its global carbon footprint.

In 2019, USCIB staff, together with member company representatives, participated in over 90 meetings and negotiations of some 18 international institutions in over 25 locations around the globe.

Beginning this month, January, 2020, carbon offset tables are being used by USCIB to calculate the carbon equivalent costs of international airline flights. That amount is being donated to sustainability programs such as forest conservation and management. The contributions will go to organizations participating with airlines most often used by USCIB staff.

In many cases, specific options of sustainability programs are provided to enable the contributor to make a “greatest impact” choice.  Where an airline does not work directly with an established organization, USCIB will decide on the recipient program.

USCIB recognizes that in the future, airlines themselves may be required to offset emissions under the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), agreed in 2018 in Montreal, which when enacted would make USCIB’s program redundant for international passenger offsets. However, the lack of agreement on an implementation schedule at the recent COP 25 meeting in Madrid of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) resulted in a postponement of enactment beyond the original 2021 goal. Until that time, USCIB believes that its carbon offset program is a positive contribution that it can make in the face of the global climate challenge.

USCIB will maintain a record of the offsets that will be available to members who might wish to see progress updates.

ICC Launches Report on Climate Change Related Dispute Resolution

L-R: Edna Sussman, Matthew Draper, Kevin O’Gorman, Nancy Thevenin, and Hélène van Lith

The ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR recently released a report on settling business disputes related to climate change with arbitration. The report, titled Resolving Climate Change Related Disputes Through Arbitration and ADR and initially launched in Paris earlier this month, was launched in New York at the offices of Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP on January 21. The New York launch was co-sponsored by USCIB and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration©.

The report defines climate change-related disputes and uses hypothetical case studies to demonstrate the potential circumstances in which such disputes may arise. Contracts identified as dealing with climate change include agreements for the creation of wind farms, solar power energy plants, smart cities or to decarbonize. 2019 is a pivotal year in the development of global climate policy with the UN seeking to raise ambition of commitments from states and other actors in line with the imperative to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“This report provides sample language for ICC arbitration clauses, as well as terms of reference and guidance for case management,” said USCIB General Counsel Nancy Thevenin, who spoke on a panel titled Users’ Perspectives. “Because of the tools this report provides, climate change related disputes can be resolved more effectively. It is an invaluable product for the business community as industries take into account international agreements concerning the environment.”

Featured speakers also included, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of New York Office at UN Environment Satya S. Tripathi, ICC International Court of Arbitration President Alexis Mourre, Co-Chair of the Task Force on Arbitration of Climate Change Related Disputes Patrick Thieffry and other renowned members of the international Arbitration community.