Robinson Welcomes COVID-19 Vaccine Collaboration Between Merck, Johnson & Johnson

New York, N.Y., March 03, 2021Peter Robinson, president and chief executive of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, released a statement today in reaction to President Joe Biden’s announcement on March 2 that Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine:

“We at USCIB commend our member companies J&J and Merck for collaborating in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership between these two companies and the commitment of their CEOs, both of which are USCIB Trustees, brings us a great amount of pride and excitement. Over the years, our motto at USCIB has been ‘Global Business Leadership At Work’ and we are pleased that our member companies have been demonstrating that and leading by example.

“The USCIB Foundation meanwhile is also building momentum on our most recent initiative – Business Partners to CONVINCE – a global, multi-sector effort to empower a ‘vaccine-literate’ public, led by employers as trusted messengers to their employees and based on trust in science and aligned commitment to future COVID-19 vaccines and other novel countermeasures.”

USCIB Informs EU With Comments on Sustainable Corporate Governance

As part of the European Green Deal and the European Commission’s (EU) Communication on the (COVID-19) Recovery Plan, the EU has invited stakeholder comments during a public consultation to inform consideration of a possible EU Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative. USCIB has submitted its comments on February 9, drawing on the expertise of its Committees on Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs and Environment.

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Global Strategy, Norine Kennedy, the consultation took the form of an online questionnaire, seeking feedback on numerous elements of ESG, and exploring what form an EU-wide framework to promote due diligence, board of directors’ duty of care and stakeholder engagement should take. 

USCIB comments highlighted the fundamental importance of the UN Guiding Principles.  USCIB set out U.S. business concerns about any promulgation of rigid approaches, such as the application of tariffs, sanctions or import restrictions that rightly seek to address human rights or labor rights concerns but – due to their rigidity – inadvertently create a disincentive for long-term supply chain engagement, the use in accordance with the UNGPs of leverage in company supply and value chains, and sustainable remediation.  

“We would welcome an EU approach to these issues that would include sustainability risks, impacts and opportunities into corporate strategy and decisions, as many companies already have,” added Kennedy. “However general principles would be preferable over rigid legal requirements. Flexibility afforded to each company to decide how to include such considerations would be crucial for such general principles to be effective.”

USCIB also encouraged the EU to pursue a fuller holistic dialogue with business and other stakeholders on how to advance sustainable corporate governance in environmental and social areas.

“We support the role business can and should play in respecting human rights” said USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog.  “We strongly encourage the EU to gather business and other stakeholder views through actual dialogue and consultation, with due attention to context, such as ongoing impacts and burdens on companies because of the pandemic’s economic disruption and ongoing constraints, as well as existing business initiatives and systems.”

USCIB will continue to follow and stay in close contact with U.S. government and EU authorities as these deliberations go forward.

The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners to CONVINCE Launch COVID-19 Challenge

In a recent press release, The USCIB Foundation, the education and research arm of USCIB, announced that its Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C) initiative has launched a ‘Global COVID-19 Workplace Challenge,’ inviting companies and organizations around the world to listen to employees’ needs and concerns about the impact and prevention of COVID-19 and encourage vaccine confidence and uptake, among other things.

TheBP2C initiative is the private sector arm of the global, multi-sector CONVINCE (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Engagement)initiative that advances vaccine literacy and promotes vaccine acceptance.

Members of the BP2C Steering Team, which includes global organizations such as Business Fights Poverty, Business at OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the International Organization of Employers, jointly agreed to develop vaccine literacy strategies based on science, facts and emerging information to counter hesitation and vaccination opponents through communication and education initiatives at the global, national and local levels.

Companies joining the Global COVID-19 Workplace Challenge agree to do the following:

  • Listen to employees’ needs and concerns about the impact and prevention of COVID-19
  • Follow the latest public health guidance to protect myself, my employees, my workplace, my customers, and my community from COVID-19
  • Promote vaccine literacy based on the latest scientific evidence of vaccination benefits and risks
  • Encourage vaccine confidence and uptake
  • Advocate for accessible, equitable, and timely vaccination of employees
  • Engage with communities, schools, faith-based organizations and public health leaders to stop the spread of COVID-19

“BP2C is developing a ‘toolkit’ of activities to help businesses address the COVID-19 Challenge,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Research has shown that businesses are a trusted source of information, and are well suited to engage, inform and educate workers, their families and communities with messages that inspire confidence in vaccination and encourage acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Scott Ratzan MD, executive director of BP2C and co-founder of CONVINCE, stated: “The potential for business to engage meaningfully in the growing international movement to address COVID with evidence-based vaccine literacy strategies is massive. Employers have the trust, respect and reach to support vaccine confidence with communication and education initiatives at the global, national and local levels.”

BP2C Steering Committee member Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project and co-founder of CONVINCE added that: “The COVID-19 pandemic challenges all of us to engage in meaningful ways. We urge businesses of all sizes and in all industries – from multinational corporations to small- and medium-sized national and local enterprises to sign up to the COVID-19 Workplace Challenge and help expedite our return to a pandemic-free society.”

To read the full press release, click here.

USCIB Member Spotlight: Coca-Cola Wins Prestigious State Department ACE Award

The Coca-Cola Company wins the “ACE” Award for third time

In a virtual ceremony late last week, the U.S. Department of State announced the winners of its annual “ACE” Award (Award for Corporate Excellence) honoring U.S.-based companies, large and small, for their exemplary corporate responsibility efforts.  U.S. State Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach and Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh, both friends of USCIB and of American business, led the ceremony.  And for the fifteenth time in the twenty-one years that State has been presenting the ACE Awards, a USCIB member company has won in the large company category. 

This year, the winner in the women’s Economic Empowerment category is Coca-Cola Azerbaijan for its business training program targeting rural women entrepreneurs, advancing women-led businesses in the tourism sector and promoting entrepreneurship among young women throughout Azerbaijan. 

U.S. companies are nominated for the awards by the local U.S. Ambassador. This is the third time Coca-Cola has won the ACE Award – Coca-Cola Philippines (2014) and Coca-Cola Egypt (2002). 

Last year, two other great USCIB member companies, PepsiCo and Proctor and Gamble won the award.   

“We are delighted to see, again this year, a USCIB company among the select group of winners of the State Department’s Award for corporate Excellence,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Year in and year out, USCIB member companies are winning awards and setting pace for corporate responsibility here at home in the U.S. and around the world. Our member companies are showing the way with best practices in a wide range of important areas – environmental stewardship and sustainability, empowering women and underrepresented communities, promoting staff development and improving lives in local communities. Coca-Cola has long been seen as a global leader in these areas and I heartily congratulate them. But they are not alone; many USCIB companies are doing incredible, creative things in the corporate responsibly area around the world.”          

USCIB Commemorates Human Rights Day and Universal Declaration of Human Rights

New York, N.Y., December 10, 2020: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) issued the following statement on occasion of Human Rights Day today:

“On this Human Rights Day, USCIB stands with the global community in commemorating the important milestone of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The UDHR rightly proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.The coverage of these rights includes LGBTI people too.

“USCIB especially welcomes the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day, “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights,” and is dedicated to encouraging, advocating for and promoting human rights in business though sound regulations, greater respect for rule of law and greater business community involvement. The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated how important and fragile respect for human rights can be, while simultaneously demonstrating that challenges can present important opportunities to collaborate for solutions. We are proud of the actions undertaken by our membership of multinational businesses, law firms and trade associations to ensure that people and planet are protected during the pandemic.”As we come together as a global community to rebuild throughout and beyond COVID-19, USCIB and our members are committed to working with governments, the private sector and other stakeholders to advance sustainable and human rights-based solutions for all. This includes those global business organizations for which we serve as the U.S. affiliate, the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and Business at OECD (known as ‘BIAC’).”

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms with operations in every region of the world. As the U.S. affiliate of the leading international business organizations, and as the sole U.S. business group with standing in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

USCIB Discusses USMCA Labor Provision With USTR’s Lewis Karesh

USCIB members met for a briefing with Lewis Karesh, who serves as Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Labor, to discuss the status of the latest developments regarding the implementation of the labor provisions of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The December 10 briefing with Karesh, who was the lead negotiator of the USMCA labor chapter, provided members a detailed overview of the new provisions in the agreement, including the newest feature, the Rapid Response Mechanism, discussing issues related to implementation and next steps to be expected. The meeting was co-organized by the USCIB Corporate Affairs and Labor Committee, as well as the Trade and Investment Committee, and included introductions from the respective Chairs: Laura Rubbo, Disney and Rick Johnston, Citi.

USMCA entered into force July 1 of this year and is currently being implemented. The Labor Chapter is a new provision, establishing a number of new labor requirements for signatory States. Among the enhancements, USMCA prioritizes labor obligations by including them in the core of the agreement and making them fully enforceable, whereas NAFTA labor obligations were contained in a side agreement on labor.

“We appreciated learning more about the USMCA labor chapter elements and their implementation status. Promulgation and effective enforcement of national labor laws that align with international standards should be the norm everywhere, and that certainly should be the case with U.S. trading partners if we are to achieve our shared goal of advancing worker rights globally,” said Gabriella Rigg Herzog, USCIB vice president for corporate responsibility and labor affairs.

The USMCA implementing legislation established an Interagency Labor Committee for Monitoring and Enforcement, co-chaired by USTR and the Department of Labor, to coordinate U.S. implementation of its labor obligations, monitor Mexico’s labor law reforms and enforce USMCA labor provisions where necessary. “Implementation and enforcement of trade agreements is key to how effective their negotiated provisions will be for companies” commented Eva Hampl, USCIB senior director of investment, trade and financial services. “The North American market covered by USMCA is extremely important to our members and their ability to continue to be able to compete in the global market place. Effective implementation of all provisions, including the Labor Chapter, is a top priority.”

USCIB Urges Governments to Strengthen Capacity to Protect Human Rights

The United Nations held a sixth special session of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) October 26-30 to negotiate a proposed legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. USCIB, through its observatory status in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), was represented by members of its Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs team, notably Vice President Gabriella Rigg Herzog and Assistant Policy and Program Manager Daniella Goncalves. Other participants this year included sixty-seven governments (down from eighty-nine in 2019), as well as other civil society organizations.

As could be observed by the UN TV-streamed proceedings, no clear consensus on either the draft text or the overall initiative emerged at the session.

“Unlike the unanimous support that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights received from the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, this IGWG session demonstrated once again the continued and strong divergence of views of governments on this matter” said Herzog. “USCIB and our members remain committed to fulfilling the business responsibility to respect human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles, and we encourage all stakeholders to redouble efforts to support the advancement of the UN Guiding Principles.”

“Recognized gaps concerning the core role of governments in fulfilling their State duty to protect human rights remain. Encouraging and supporting States as they work to build their capacity to effectively enforce their own national laws should be a priority for all stakeholders if meaningful access to remedy is to be achieved,” added Goncalves.

The United States government has opposed the IGWG since its launch in 2014 and issued a public statement again this year on October 26, citing opposition to the treaty based on its substance and the process around its development.

Other countries, such as Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and Norway, also did not attend this year’s sessions. Among the sixty-seven countries who did attend, many expressed the need for greater clarity on definitions, scope, liability and jurisdiction, emphasized the differences in state capacity and costs associated with implementation, as well as asserted the need to respect sovereignty.

USCIB will continue to observe and provide direct insights to its Members on this initiative.

USCIB Welcomes US Intention to Rejoin the Paris Agreement

Co-creating a U.S. climate plan to restore economies and to deploy American innovation globally

Washington, D.C., November 10, 2020 — The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) welcomes the intention of the incoming Administration to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Multilateralism matters to business, and nowhere is this conviction more important than in addressing climate change, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic and its economic and social impacts.

For over twenty-five years, USCIB members have supported the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and have been fully committed both to international cooperation and partnership with our government to tackle the impacts of climate change while advancing American private-sector driven economic prosperity and environmental stewardship at home and abroad. In our view, it is critical to continue to focus on and champion substantive engagement of U.S. business in all dimensions of the UNFCCC.

Enabling conditions inside and outside the framework of climate policy will be vital to progress towards the objectives of the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement. USCIB is ready to recommend synergistic approaches that mobilize trade and investment to support and deploy innovative technologies and forms of energy.

As the U.S. affiliate of Business at OECD (BIAC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and with its own standing at the UNFCCC and at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), USCIB is uniquely placed to scale and amplify these opportunities across the UN system, and in the OECD and the WTO.

As it re-engages, we encourage the Biden Administration to work closely with the full diversity of U.S. business across every sector of the economy. This will be essential to deliver a U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) that advances U.S. economic growth, energy security, job creation and climate action, for the widest benefit of all in our society.

While this might take time, we believe it is worth the effort to consult and reflect the views and expertise of USCIB members and other business stakeholders on economic, social, energy and environmental dimensions of U.S. actions at home and abroad in this critical area.

We look forward to this new chapter of vigorous American involvement and cooperation towards a successful COP26 climate meeting in 2021, and to U.S. involvement in the UNFCCC process into the future.

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms with operations in every region of the world. USCIB has represented U.S. business at the UNFCCC since 1993. Furthermore, as the U.S. affiliate of leading international business organizations and as the sole U.S. business group with standing in ECOSOC, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

Business Letter to US Senate on Dire Situation in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

USCIB joined with several other associations, including the U.S.-China Business Council, the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others, to express great concern regarding the dire situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The letter was sent to the Honorable Sherrod Brown and the Honorable Ron Wyden of the United States Senate on November 6 and is copied below.


Dear Senators Brown and Wyden:

Thank you for your October 27, 2020, letter regarding the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

The situation in XUAR is of enormous concern to the undersigned associations and our member companies. We have been working together and with other stakeholders to respond to this issue for some time. Forced labor in any form is horrific and intolerable, wherever it takes place. What is even more concerning is that forced labor – as horrific as it is – is only one component of a much larger campaign of oppression in this region.

Our members have long implemented rigorous due diligence activities to support and advance ethical manufacturing globally. These efforts have uncovered forced, bonded, and prison labor in facilities around the world. When they find such practices, our members act to root out and redress unacceptable and unethical practices.

Our members have been on the frontlines of deploying a range of best practices to prevent, identify, and mitigate instances of forced labor as well as joining forces in a collective effort to address the situation. Our members have been mapping out their supply chains and engaging with their supplier base and other partners to ensure there is no forced labor in their supply chains. We continue to explore alternative sourcing strategies and more effective due diligence mechanisms and technologies. That work has been and will continue in earnest. However, the situation in this region is of a scale, scope, and complexity – coupled with a lack of transparency – that is unprecedented in modern supply chains and goes beyond the capability of our members to fight this alone.

We strongly believe that the U.S. government must take a leadership role in a global approach that mobilizes the Administration and Congress, in conjunction with foreign governments, and engaging and partnering with industry, labor, and other important stakeholders. Marshalling the collective might of all stakeholders will be the most effective and only way of achieving our shared goal – ending forced labor practices and the larger campaign of oppression in the region.

The undersigned associations strongly condemn human rights abuses, including forced labor and the persecution and detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China. We stand ready to work with you and your staff, and with all stakeholders, to find meaningful measures that would effectively safeguard human rights. We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss what our organizations and our members are doing and determine possible paths forward.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

 

Sincerely,

American Apparel & Footwear Association

Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America

National Retail Federation

Retail Industry Leaders Association

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S.-China Business Council

U.S. Council for International Business

U.S. Fashion Industry Association

Diversity in the Workplace Amid Topics at Annual Engaging Business Forum

USCIB co-organized the twelfth annual Engaging Business Forum on Human Rights on October 7, however due to COVID-19 precautions, the usual two-day forum was condensed into a virtual event. Hosted by The Coca-Cola Company every year since 2008, the Forum has gathered hundreds of practitioners to discuss leading issues at the intersection of business and human rights. Despite the virtual nature of the forum, this year was no different in terms of interest and engagement by over 500 leading practitioners.

With opening remarks from The Coca-Cola Company Chairman and CEO James Quincy and a keynote address from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, as well as the International Labor Organization Director General Guy Ryder, participants were guided through a program that included discussion of the increasingly important role of business in respecting human rights as the world works towards a post-COVID-19 recovery that is sustainable for all. As in years past, USCIB led some of the discussions; USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog contributed her expertise on the panel “Diversity at the Workplace and Beyond – What Now Needs to Happen?”

“Diversity covers a range of factors, including age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, culture and disability,” said Herzog. “Our goal today is to explore the connection between diversity and business and human rights, as well as to bring heightened awareness of the critical role companies play in advancing progress.”

Herzog was joined on her panel by President and CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights Jill Savitt, Chair of the UN Working Group on Business & Human Rights Anita Ramasastry, Founder and Chair of Omnia Strategy Cherie Blair and Global Chief Diversity Officer, The Coca-Cola Company Lori George Billingsley.

The Forum was co-organized by the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and hosted by The Coca-Cola Company.