Herzog Joins Sweden Foreign Minister Linde in Discussing Women’s Economic Empowerment

Gabriella Rigg Herzog

USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog joined a panel discussion organized jointly by the government of Sweden and the International Labor Organization (ILO) titled, “Women’s Empowerment and Worker Rights in a Post-Pandemic World” on November 12.

Moderated by The American Prospect Editor-at-Large Harold Meyerson, the event included other speakers such as Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Karin Olofsdotter, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde, AFL-CIO International Department Director Catherine Feingold and U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Undersecretary for the Bureau for International Labor Affairs Thea Lee.

In her remarks, Herzog joined with other panelists in raising concerns over the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women, and the risk of backsliding on the gains made to date for women’s economic empowerment in the workplace. The conversation also turned to the issue of global supply chains and their possible role in advancing good practices regarding women’s rights and worker rights. In responding, Herzog noted many positive company efforts, and underscored the irreplaceable need at national levels for good governance, rule of law and effective enforcement of laws that meet international standards.

On the latter point, Herzog shared examples of discriminatory legislation in far too many jurisdictions holding women back. “Removing legal restrictions that hinder women from participating in the formal labor market and having formal self-employment opportunities such as proper access to finance for female entrepreneurs is key to addressing inequalities,” Herzog emphasized, noting the importance of joint efforts by governments, employers and workers to tackle shared challenges and priorities.

In terms of concrete policy recommendations, Herzog noted those put forward on October 7, 2021 in the “B20 – Special Initiative on Women Empowerment” policy paper, such as eliminating legal and cultural barriers to paid work and actively upskilling female workers.

Additionally, Herzog highlighted the key role employer organizations play as democratic institutions supporting small and medium sized businesses – especially at national levels –with training, tools and peer-exchanges on how to promote and advocate for gender equality and diversity at the workplace.

Herzog Moderates Session at Second UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog joined Sophia Areias of the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, in moderating a session on November 11 during the second  UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. According to Herzog, the session focused on the increasing number of mandatory human rights due diligence laws from around the world, and what they mean for businesses in the region, as well as offered practical insights for local businesses on how to prepare for the changing legal landscape.

Herzog spoke in her capacity as chair of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) Policy Working Group on Human Rights and Responsible Business Conduct. During the session, she emphasized that in this past year alone, Switzerland, Germany and Norway adopted mandatory due diligence legislation and that the EU Commission is poised to publish its proposal for an EU directive on mandatory due diligence this December.

“While many of the companies listening in from the region may not be directly covered by the new legislation because you are not based in the EU,” Herzog said, “nevertheless, it may affect you because the companies that are within scope of the legislation source from this region and will require stronger efforts from their suppliers with regards to responsible business practices.”

The session featured two panels – one with company presentations from Norsk Hydro and JTI discussing their firms’ responsible sourcing policies and practices, and a second including presentations from two employer federations from North Macedonia and Georgia, that spoke about their work and how they inform and support their member companies on emerging regulatory developments and best practices.

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.

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.

USCIB Submits Comments on USMCA Labor Chapter to US Trade Representative

Following the entry into force of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on July 1, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has requested comments on the procedures for submissions alleging violations under the Labor Chapter. USCIB and its members have been vocal supporters of the inclusion of a Labor Chapter in the USMCA and its Annex which would increase protections for workers abroad, promote business continuity and encourage efficiency.

On August 14, USCIB submitted comments to USTR and  the Interagency Labor Committee for Monitoring and Enforcement (Interagency Labor Committee) with recommendations, such as allowing USCIB to participate and provide information to the Committee as labor unions are invited to do. USCIB is the national employer body recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The comments also called for greater elaboration of specific procedural provisions. “The interests of all stakeholders should be considered when carrying out labor-related mandates and due process needs to be safeguarded,” said USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility Gabriella Rigg Herzog. “We look forward to lending USCIB’s unique expertise in our continued work with USTR

USCIB Joins With Global Community to Oppose Revision to ISO 26000

USCIB joined with several other U.S. business associations in opposing a recent proposal to revise ISO 26000 on Social Responsibility, develop implementation guidelines or standards and create a new Technical Committee (TC) on Social Responsibility.  After a five-year global negotiation, ISO 26000 was released in November of 2010 as a guidance document rather than a management systems for certification purposes and it remains a valuable resource for companies.

USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog observed that the proposal currently before ISO would, “not only reverse the consensus achieved over the five year negotiation, but would also divert resources and away from ongoing implementation and innovation in the field of social responsibility.”

Global stakeholders who also opposed this proposal included leading human rights NGOs, the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and the International Labor Organization (ILO). Moreover, and as was expressed by ILO Secretary-General Guy Ryder, adoption of this proposal would divert focus from and undermine universally accepted standards on human rights and labor issues, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ILO Conventions, the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

USCIB continues to follow this matter and will be in communication with members and our global affiliates as this matter develops.

COVID-19 Highlights Deep-Rooted Challenges of Informal Sectors

At a recent OECD virtual meeting, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson discussed one of the main, deep-rooted structural challenges underpinning the global economy—informality—the extent of which has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robinson noted during his remarks at the annual OECD Global Forum on COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct that in the longer-term, solutions are going to require dialogue, cooperation and partnership – particularly with regards to issues impacting vulnerable economies.

Informality represents approximately 60% of workers and 80% of businesses worldwide. It is at risk of expanding due to the current economic downturn. The informal sector work is characterized by high degrees of poverty and serious decent work deficits.

“If we can find ways of incentivizing informal firms to formalize, we support both a sustainable recovery by mitigating the size of the problem and advance workers’ rights, good governance and responsible business conduct for the SME and larger companies linked to them through business relationships,” said Robinson. “One critical bottom line in creating an environment that incentivizes and promotes the uptake of responsible business conduct is the fundamental importance of rule of law, enforcement, and well-functioning institutions.”

Robinson also reiterated USCIB’s commitment to responsible business conduct.

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.

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.

Robinson Shares US Perspective During Virtual Briefing on Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 With ILO Director General

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson joined International Organization of Employers (IOE) members from around the world in a virtual dialogue meeting with ILO Director General Guy Ryder. The April 30th briefing allowed for employers to gain better understanding of how the ILO is responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

According to the IOE, this briefing attracted 112 participants from across the world.

Robinson’s remarks included the state of the U.S. economic situation, which included somber statistics regarding U.S. GDP, which has contracted 4.8% in the first quarter of this year and U.S. unemployment claims as of April 30, which reached a total of over thirty million.

“The impacts in the U.S. are sadly not unique,” said Robinson. “Every IOE member on this call and every ILO member state has been similarly laid low – especially vulnerable economies already beset by existing challenges.”

“At USCIB we’re particularly concerned with the inadequacies of social protection systems worldwide, but especially in vulnerable economies, as well as lack of access for SMEs in those countries to capital to maintain their financial viability during this crisis,” added Robinson.

USCIB has raised this issue, and others, with the U.S. government.

“As we look to the future and recovery, let’s be bold,” urged Robinson. “We’re in the first year of the ILO’s second century and we are faced with an enormous challenge. Now, more than ever is the time to take clear and focused action together to harness the unique strength of the ILO and its tripartite constituency. Let’s find unity in purpose to support the ILO’s role in helping the world ‘build back better’ by focusing on core issues of shared priority – looking to the ILO Centenary Declaration as our guide. Count on USCIB, our members and the IOE as your committed partners for our recovery together.”

USCIB Speaks on Human Rights and Responsible Toy Sourcing

USCIB Assistant Policy and Program Manager Daniella Goncalves was a panelist at the New York Toy Fair Seminar, “Responsible Toy Sourcing: Maximizing Global Opportunities.”  The event took place on February 24 and brought together toy industry practitioners to discuss current trends and emerging risks and regulations affecting toy manufacturing, as well as presenting opportunities to diversify toy supply chains beyond China in 2020.

Goncalves spoke about the growing trend of human rights due diligence legislation at the national and international levels, as well as regulatory development related to global supply chains, forced labor and child labor.  “Our members have been leaders for decades in addressing human rights in their supply chains and continue to evolve their programs to address emerging risks,” she said. “Corporations can and should continue to operate in line with the UN Guiding Principles, but we also need governments to uphold their ‘duty to protect’ against human rights violations by passing, implementing and enforcing labor laws that adhere to international standards.”

The seminar was hosted by the International Council of Toy Council of Toy Industries’ (ICTI) Ethical Toy Program. The Ethical Toy Program was created fifteen years ago and seeks to equip factories with a code of conduct, training, audits and assessments, certifications and worker well-being focused programming. The program is recognized for its commitment to ethical production through its emphasis on worker rights and well-being.