Business Unites in Opposition to Draft Human Rights Treaty Targeting Companies

Gabriella Rigg Herzog (USCIB)
Proposed treaty would fundamentally shift the burden of policing and enforcing global human rights from governments onto multinational companies.
Treaty is championed by Ecuador and several other governments, alongside a number of activist groups.

 

This week in Geneva, at the fourth session of a UN working group charged with reviewing standards for companies with respect to human rights, the global business community has united in opposition to a proposed “zero draft” of a treaty on business and human rights.

The proposed treaty, championed by Ecuador and several other governments, alongside a number of activist groups, would fundamentally shift the burden of policing and enforcing global human rights from governments onto multinational companies, according to Gabriella Rigg Herzog, USCIB’s vice president for corporate responsibility and labor affairs, who is attending the Geneva meeting.

“Some in the room have referred to the zero draft as a ‘last line of defense’ approach,” Herzog told delegates in a statement on behalf of USCIB and the International Organization of Employers (IOE). “But we believe the true first line of defense is strong domestic rule of law, good governance, and the state duty to protect human rights. This is where our collective efforts should focus and is the global approach we all are working to achieve under the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

A joint statement by the IOE, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD and Business Europe conveys the groups’ strong concerns on the proposed treaty. These include:

  • The zero draft includes requirements that are unclear and not aligned with recognized “soft-law” instruments such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • It establishes a different set of requirements for transnational business activities versus other enterprises and organizations.
  • And the draft would open the door to civil and criminal suits in a wide range of jurisdictions, which could lead to “forum shopping.”

“We do not believe that these texts make a helpful contribution to the field of business and human rights and we believe that they risk undermining important progress made in this sphere under the UN Guiding Principles,” stated Viviane Schiave, senior policy executive with ICC. “Furthermore, the process followed by the [UN working group] to date does not give business confidence that this initiative will provide credible and workable solution to such complex human rights issues.”

USCIB Raises Awareness for SDG Platform at Global Business Forum

Business representatives from numerous countries were on hand to prepare views and share good practices relating to employers and job creation in connection with the SDGs.
“Businessfor2030 is really the perfect way to showcase what the business community is doing for the SDGs,” said Matthias Thorns of IOE.

 

The Global Business Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) met in Madrid, Spain from October 1-2.  Business representatives from numerous countries were on hand to prepare views and share good practices relating to employers and job creation in connection with the SDGs. USCIB Policy and Program Assistant Mia Lauter represented U.S. employers and USCIB at the session.

The Forum, organized by the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and hosted by Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales (CEOE) with the support of the European Union, aimed to raise awareness of the SDGs and the contributions that businesses can make to their achievement and exchange experiences about the involvement of Employers’ Organizations (EOs) and discuss the role they can play. The Forum also sought to better understand the needs and expectations of companies – MNEs and SMEs alike – with regard to support from EOs, as well as learn about the challenges and opportunities arising from SDG reporting, see the SDGs in the larger context of UN reform. Finally the Forum aimed to define the key messages of business for the high-level review of SDG 8 in 2019; and identify key follow-up actions for the IOE and invited delegates.

Lauter discussed the role of employers’ organizations in achieving the SDGs with particular focus on USCIB’s web platform Businessfor2030.org, outlining three main purposes of the site:

  1. Understand: Businessfor2030 cuts through the UN complexities and jargon, and helps companies understand the expectations and opportunities for the private sector, connecting the SDGs to business value propositions
  2. Be Inspired: Businessfor2030 aggregates companies’ sustainability initiatives and re-broadcasts them in alignment with the SDGs, then directly targets them at the audience that cares – the UN. Explore case studies of private sector contributions to sustainable development and the SDGs.
  3. Get Involved: Businessfor2030 provides resources to connect companies, UN agencies and governments for public-private partnerships for the SDGs. It also offers opportunities for companies to add their own examples of case studies or contribute stories and policy views through the Bizfor2030 blog.

Lauter emphasized that achieving the SDGs calls for an all-of-society approach, and that Employers’ Organizations have the unique ability to connect the many stakeholders involved in social and economic aspects of sustainability.

Director of Stakeholder Engagement at IOE Matthias Thorns agreed. “Businessfor2030 is really the perfect way to showcase what the business community is doing for the SDGs,” said Thorns.

The Forum, which offered a global exchange among employers’ organizations on sustainable development, helped participants foster a better common understanding; learn from national experiences; identify areas of common concern; and agree on follow-up action, as well as facilitate public-private dialogue on the issue of business engagement on the SDGs.

International Business Magazine: Fall/Summer 2018

The Summer/Fall 2018 issue of USCIB’s quarterly International Business magazine is available here. The issue features a timely column by USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson titled, “The Myth of Private-Sector ‘Conflict of Interest’ at the UN. The issue also features news stories on how tariffs harm companies and consumers, tax reform impacts, and reinforcing US-China tie, plus news from our global network–Business at OECD, the International Organization of Employers and the International Chamber of Commerce.

“International Business,” USCIB’s quarterly journal, provides essential insight into major trade and investment topics, a high-level overview of USCIB policy advocacy and services, USCIB member news and updates from our global business network.

Subscribe to USCIB’s International Business Magazine

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Non-members may subscribe to “International Business” and other USCIB print publications at an annual rate of $50 (U.S.) for domestic delivery, or $75 for overseas delivery. Contact us to subscribe. USCIB’s annual report, studies from the United States Council Foundation and related publications are included with your paid subscription.

Our free electronic newsletter, “International Business Weekly,” provides regular updates on USCIB’s major activities and priorities. Click here to view a sample issue. Click here to subscribe.

We welcome outside submissions and inquiries regarding our publications – send them to news@uscib.org.

We welcome advertising in International Business magazine — special discounted rates for USCIB member organizations! Contact Kira Yevtukhova (kyevtukhova@uscib.org) for more information.

 

Annual Conference Discusses Human Rights Trends and Developments

Gabriella Rigg Herzog (USCIB) speaks at the 2018 Engaging Business Forum
Theme of 2018 forum: “Collaboration Through Partnerships to Address Business and Human Rights Trends and Developments.”
Forum brought together 200+ representatives from the private sector, U.S. government, civil society, academia, and international organizations to discuss the importance of partnerships in achieving business and human rights goals.

Since 2007, USCIB, The Coca-Cola Company, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) have organized an annual forum on business and human rights to foster candid discussions and peer learning opportunities. The 10th Engaging Business Forum took place on September 13-14 at The Coca-Cola Company’s headquarters in Atlanta under the theme of “Collaboration Through Partnerships to Address Business and Human Rights Trends and Developments.”

The two-day forum has become the leading annual business and human rights convening in the United States, and this year brought together over 200 representatives from the private sector, U.S. government, civil society, academia, and international organizations to discuss the importance of partnerships in achieving business and human rights goals. Participants discussed leading business and human rights issues of the moment, including:

  • What does and doesn’t work in partnerships?
  • How business can work and interact with human rights defenders?
  • Best practices and challenges for business in providing access to remedy?
  • How to address the issue of wages in the supply chain?
  • Understanding diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

The keynote speaker at the event was Director-General of the International Labor Organization Guy Ryder. Other speakers included USCIB Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Herzog, Director of Global Workplace Rights at The Coca-Cola Company Brent Wilton, Director of Stakeholder Engagement at IOE Matthias Thorns, and Michael Congiu of Littler Mendelson as the representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. USCIB member company speakers included The Walt Disney Company, Walmart, H&M, and Rio Tinto.

“Our role at USCIB is to support U.S. business in creating and supporting a more prosperous society, including through demonstrating respect for human rights in their activities,” said Herzog. “We’re proud to be a co-sponsor of this prestigious annual human rights event which provides sharing and learning opportunities about the important roles that governments, business and civil society representatives are playing to advance human rights around the world,” Herzog added.

The event’s agenda is available here.

 

Registration Open for USCIB’s Engaging Business Forum

USCIB, the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be sponsoring the 10th Engaging Business Forum, hosted by The Coca-Cola Company. The Forum will take place on September 13-14, in Atlanta, GA.

This year’s Forum will focus on collaboration through partnerships to address business and human rights trends and developments. Panels will discuss what works/doesn’t work in partnerships, access to remedy, human rights defenders, supply chains, among other topics. Speakers include Guy Ryder, Phil Bloomer, Anita Ramasastry, John Morrison and many more. In addition to hearing from our speakers, there will also be opportunities for networking and peer-to-peer learning roundtables. The full agenda can be found here.

If you would like to participate, please register here. Space is limited, so registration will be on a first-come first-serve basis. If you have any questions, please reach out to Elizabeth Kim (ekim@uscib.org).

USCIB, ILO Director General Discuss Role of Business

L-R: Laura Rubbo (Walt Disney Company), Guy Ryder (ILO), Peter Robinson (USCIB), Kevin Cassidy (ILO), Gabriella Rigg Herzog (USCIB)

As the International Labor Organization (ILO) gears up to celebrate its centennial in 2019, ILO Director General Guy Ryder met with USCIB and 20 of its company members in Washington DC on July 20 to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. Topics covered included areas of mutual business including the ILO’s centenary in 2019, the “Future of Work,” the role of governments, the role of business at the ILO, and the work of the standard-setting committee on violence and harassment at the International Labor Conference.

For the centenary, USCIB will seek to organize a business-focused event in 2019, and also participate in an ILO event to celebrate the Philadelphia declaration. Members highlighted that they see the Future of Work, which is the theme of the ILO’s centenary celebration, as a positive opportunity to highlight the impactful role that government education and employment policies, as well as business initiatives to offer apprenticeship and training opportunities, can have to prepare workers for the jobs of the information economy and beyond. 

USCIB and its members also stressed the fundamental role governments must play in writing laws that meet international standards and effectively enforcing them, and they stressed the importance of ILO’s continued focus on helping governments carry out those core functions. Business also recommended that the ILO could helpfully prioritize providing support for governments and other tripartite partners with essential job creation, skills, employment and other relevant topics. 

USCIB also spoke very clearly about the issue of violence and harassment at work and emphasized U.S. employer commitment to this topic. USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog stated that the topic is right, the time is now – especially in light of the #metoo movement, and the Employers’ hope and expectation is that the ILO is the right institution to push this issue forward. Herzog underscored that Director General Ryder and the ILO Office can provide needed support for the tripartite constituents to help reach an agreed text that provides clear and practical definitions for both public and private sector employers so they can understand their responsibilities and so that governments can be attracted to take the next step and ratify the ILO instrument. An ILO instrument that sits on the shelf that no government ratifies will not have any impact on the ground in counties where guidance and change is needed – most especially on this critical issue of addressing violence and harassment in the workplace.

As the U.S. affiliate to the International Organization of Employers (IOE), USCIB represents U.S. employers at the ILO and provides key input to the governance and policy setting activities. 

USCIB Welcomes New Partners to SDG Business Web Platform

From L-R: Ambassador Kevin Moley, Assistant Secretary for International Organizations (State Department), Peter Robinson, President and CEO (USCIB), and John Denton, Secretary General (ICC)

On the margins of this year’s annual United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at UN headquarters in New York, USCIB convened a dinner for business, UN organizations and governments to highlight private sector action and impact towards sustainable development, using the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a blueprint.  The Businessfor2030 Dinner was co-organized with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and its Swiss and UK National Committees, as well as with the International Organization of Employers (IOE).

In addition to announcing the expansion and globalization of the Businessfor2030 web platform, the dinner and its speakers also set the stage for the SDG Business Forum, organized by ICC and held at UN HQ on July 17.  Recently appointed Secretary General of the ICC John Denton addressed the Businessfor2030 dinner, issuing a challenge to the international community to unleash the power and potential of business in order to attain the 2030 objectives across economic, social and environmental areas.  “We need to help people understand the power of working with the private sector,” emphasized Denton.  Kris DeMeester, representing the International Organization of Employers, underscored the broad commitment of employers all over the world to advance sustainable development through employment, in the workplace and working closely with other social partners.

“Three years after the launch of the SDGs, we continue to take seriously that all companies, all sectors must engage to deliver on economic, environmental and social progress,” stated USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson in his opening remarks. “No company can sit this out.  We commend our own members for having embraced the SDGs and moved forward to embed them not only in corporate responsibility programs, but increasingly across aspects of their planning and investment.”

The Businessfor2030 webplatform is a unique resource for business, governments and others in the UN community who are seeking to understand and pursue the SDGs.  It presents business examples of SDG action, and provides information on public-private partnerships. Established by USCIB in 2015, it now features over 250 examples of business action, covering more than half of the 169 specific SDG targets.

USCIB Applauds UN on Global Compact for Safe Migration

USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg delivered a statement on July 13 at the United Nations headquarters in NY in support of the final draft of the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular Migration (GCM). Goldberg delivered the statement on behalf of the International Organization of Employers and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Business Mechanism.

The Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration was agreed upon by UN Member States following several negotiating rounds and aims to protect the interests of both migrants and citizens.

“Regular migration is critical to the success of our enterprises – as well as our economies,” said Goldberg. “That success requires a comprehensive and balanced approach – such as that sought in the GCM – that facilitates the economic contributions of migrants while protecting them from predatory practices.”

USCIB Co-Hosts Event on Employing Persons With Disabilities

L-R: Rob Mulligan (USCIB), Yves Veulliet, (IBM), Stefan Tromel (ILO)

USCIB joined IBM and the International Labor Organization’s Global Business and Disability Network to host an event on June 26 in Washington DC on “Sustainable Employment of Persons With Disabilities Globally.” The event brought together representatives of companies with extensive experience in this area to discuss ways to address important topics such as ensuring digital accessibility, bridging the digital skills gap and promoting the employment of persons with disabilities in emerging economies, particularly in China and India.

“In our role as the U.S. industry representative to the International Organization of Employers, USCIB has been a strong supporter of the ILO GBDN from the beginning,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan during his opening remarks. “USCIB members recognize that doing our best to protect and strengthen the economic, political and social position of every member of society is fundamental to economic and social progress. What companies are increasingly coming to realize – and what smart companies have known for some time – is that there is also a strong business and economic case for employing a variety of under-represented groups: the larger, more diverse and more prosperous the universe of potential employees and customers, the better for business.”

Mulligan was joined by other high-level company representatives throughout the day-long event including those from Merck, Tommy Hilfiger, E&Y and Accenture. Over 50 representatives from government, industry and civil society attended.

USCIB Statement on U.S. Withdrawal From the UN Human Rights Council

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (credit: U.S. Mission to the UN)

New York, N.Y., June 20, 2018 – The United States Council for International Business, which represents the views of the American private sector to major multilateral organizations, international forums and national governments, issued the following statement regarding the U.S. decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as the separation of families at the southern border:

“We are disappointed that the United States has chosen to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). While we agree with the Administration and Ambassador Nikki Haley that the Council is badly in need of reform, this can only come about through continued, direct and vigorous engagement by the United States, working with allies, civil society groups and representatives of the private sector.

“We urge the United States to reconsider this decision. In the meantime, USCIB and its global business partners will continue to represent the views of the private sector on matters affecting American business in the UNHRC and other international forums. USCIB will also continue its cooperation with the Administration to represent U.S. business interests on social and human rights issues across the United Nations system, including in the ILO.

“USCIB members are strongly committed to human rights. We will continue to advocate for both governments’ duty to protect and corporate responsibility to respect human rights, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“Lastly, especially in the context of U.S. withdrawal from the UNHRC, harmful U.S. action to separate children of illegal immigrants apprehended at our southern border from their families is contrary to American values. Such troubling practices at home risk calling into question U.S. leadership and dedication to upholding human rights. We are hopeful that President Trump, as he has pledged to do, will address this issue via executive order and reunite these families without delay.”

About USCIB:

USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and regulatory coherence. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of our economy, with operations in every region of the world, generating $5 trillion in annual revenues and employing over 11 million people worldwide. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and Business at OECD, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More information is available at www.uscib.org.

Contact:

Jonathan Huneke, VP Communications

+1 212.703.5043 or jhuneke@uscib.org