USCIB Interviews John Frank on Microsoft’s New Office in NY for UN Affairs

John Frank

USCIB member since 1996, Microsoft has recently established a New York office to liaise with the United Nations. Norine Kennedy, who leads USCIB work on strategic international engagement, energy and environment, conducted a (virtual) interview with the head of this new office—Vice President for UN Affairs John Frank. Kennedy welcomed Frank to NY and posed some questions about Microsoft’s strategic vision for an enhanced presence at the UN, and invited his perspective on what American innovation, engagement and sustainability leadership can bring to the international community.


Microsoft’s decision to establish a New York office to connect directly with the UN is unique among our members. Could you talk about the process that led to this decision?

Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it’s public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we have found that multilateral cooperation is essential. And we need inclusive governance that brings in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. At Microsoft, we have taken active roles to encourage and support multi-stakeholder initiatives like the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace and the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

As we have deepened our engagements on global and multi-stakeholder initiatives, we find ourselves interacting with the UN system and other multilateral institutions more deeply. The UN General Assembly High Level Week brings many people, including companies, to New York. But the work does not stop there. The people and processes that aim to solve these collective challenges continue after High Level Week concludes, so we decided we should be here all year long.

Establishing our representation office with people based in New York and Geneva is the next natural step for a company that values multilateralism and multi-stakeholder solutions to global challenges.

What do you see as the role of tech companies such as Microsoft in a post COVID-19 world?

The COVID-19 experience has greatly accelerated the adoption of technology across many organizations. Whether one uses Microsoft Teams, or Zoom, or another video conferencing solution, we have all moved our meetings and conferences online. Outside of the workplace, technology is helping us educate our children, engage with friends and family, and make our voices heard during the pandemic. In a post COVID-19 world, we expect some best practices will persist, allowing for more flexible workplaces, next generation classrooms, and other technology-enabled advances to improve how we work, communicate, and learn.

We believe this digital transformation will continue to accelerate. We see greater urgency to harness data science, especially for public health. Software, computers and data science are becoming core to every organization. Every company is becoming either a tech company, or a tech-enabled company. We will continue to see growth in the number of tech companies and the number of technology skilled workers.

COVID-19 has also sharpened the digital divide. As schooling moves online, students without affordable broadband access and laptops are at risk of being left behind. Telemedicine has seen great adoption and social benefits, but communities without broadband access cannot benefit. Billions of people around the world are still not connected. The pandemic has drawn into stark focus the need to narrow the digital divide between and within countries. And we need to enable institutions and individuals to develop the digital skills to flourish in a technology-enabled future.

Some technology companies have enjoyed great success but have not always earned the trust and respect of political leaders. It’s no surprise that our industry is facing greater calls for corporate responsibility and regulation in several jurisdictions globally. And so we have important work on both transformations – contributing to our customers’ digital transformations, and to new regulatory frameworks that will support innovation and greater corporate responsibility.

What is your vision for your team regarding UN engagement, particularly on over-arching UN-wide efforts to respond to COVID-19 and a sustainable and resilient recovery?

Across Microsoft, we have several engagements with the UN that are intended to help the UN amplify its efforts in a wide range of areas. Our representation office focuses on how we can help those initiatives be more impactful and help our Microsoft colleagues engage the many parts of the UN system in a way that best meets the UN’s needs.

Our initial focus will be on supporting and promoting cooperation with the UN to advance progress in six key areas: climate action; human rights; strong institutions; decent work and economic growth; quality education; and broadband availability and accessibility.

Our partnerships support the Secretary-General’s plan for a comprehensive UN response to COVID-19 to save lives, protect societies, and recover better. We will continue our projects that contribute to a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery.

Since March 2020, our senior leaders have been working with the leaders at WHO to develop big data solutions that will greatly increase the scientific capacity of WHO to address COVID-19 and future health challenges. This work has implications for all nations that are dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

We also focus on digital inclusion initiatives. Our colleagues have promoted innovative, lower-cost solutions to bring broadband access to rural Africa because getting the world online will help build sustainable and inclusive societies. Five years ago, I visited a demonstration project in Mawingu, Kenya, for a low-cost broadband solution using unused spectrum allocated to broadcast television. That technology is now proven, and there is a group of local companies ready to deploy scale solutions in Africa. Our team is focused on their last mile: how we can help those projects get financing so they can bring broadband to millions of people at affordable prices.

Microsoft colleagues have been working for years on education opportunities for refugees and internally displaced people. The Learning Passport began as a partnership among UNICEF, Microsoft and the University of Cambridge. The program was designed to provide education for internally displaced and refugee children through a digital remote learning platform. It has now undergone rapid expansion to help countries roll out their online curricula for children and youth whose schools were forced to close due to COVID-19. The platform will also provide key resources to teachers and educators who need to adapt to online learning quickly.

Protecting human rights remains essential across everything we do. We have an important partnership with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to support their work with a technology tool, Rights View, that enables them to monitor human rights developments around the world.

The vision for our UN Affairs team is to engage with the UN community, build relationships and learn, and help make Microsoft’s partnerships more impactful.

COVID-19 delays within UN processes on climate change and biodiversity notwithstanding, Microsoft has announced impressive leadership initiatives in the sustainability space.  Could you talk about those and the synergies you hope to see in bringing those into and partnering with the UN?

Around the time the US Administration announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, our company leadership decided that we needed to do more directly not only to reduce, but to reverse our environmental impact. We have chosen four focus areas: carbon, water, biodiversity, and waste. We have set bold goals for ourselves, based on rigorous environmental standards and business planning. For example, we have pledged to be carbon negative on Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by 2030 and to achieve net zero carbon emissions for our Scope 1 and 2 emissions for the 75 years of the company’s existence by 2050.

Companies need to share and learn from each other how we to make progress towards these kinds of goals. The NetZero Coalition is a forum we helped form for this purpose. We want to share aspirations and operational experiences so that eventually, small, medium and large size organizations can learn how to implement programs that are economically sound, and ambitiously reduce carbon emissions.

The UN and its agencies have been on a similar journey, researching and learning more about how to tackle climate change collectively. With our engagements with the UN, we hope that we can expand the reach and amplify the learnings on how organizations, large and small, can move from aspiration to achieving measurable and ambitious operational goals.

Let’s switch gears to the digital economy. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a Digital Cooperation Roadmap. Through USCIB, Microsoft actively contributed to advocating for an Internet Governance architecture that would build upon the current Internet Governance Forum. The UN Roadmap also addresses connectivity, privacy protections and human rights, and cybersecurity. Overall, how would Microsoft like to see this Roadmap carried forward in the UN – recognizing that many member states still may lack a strong digital infrastructure?

The Roadmap for Digital Cooperation embraces a multi-stakeholder approach that Microsoft, USCIB and others have been advocating over a number of years. It is important for USCIB and our fellow members to remain engaged. We hope that the progress we made together to shape the vision for the eight areas for action can be advanced to make ambitious progress in implementation, engaging multi-stakeholder processes. The appointment of a UN Technology Envoy will be a welcome step.

Microsoft has embraced the opportunity to contribute to the Roundtable process this year, including as co-champion of the section on Digital Trust and Security. Our company had an opportunity to participate in important discussions to advance broader understanding of the strong linkage between digital trust and security, and how essential they are to protecting the digital environment that enables progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

As you note in your question, many member states are still building their digital infrastructure and so we believe it is important to devote significant energy to helping them build their digital capacities.  Affordable broadband connectivity, guaranteeing human rights, and commitment to keeping the Internet free, open and secure, and building capacity for digital trust and security are important priorities.

And in all countries, there is important work to be done promoting inclusive economic recovery, addressing the digital divides with affordable broadband access, skilling workers for greater economic rewards, and remotely teaching students.

Microsoft has been an active contributor to the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Cybersecurity, a multi-stakeholder group. This has enabled business to provide critical technical expertise to security-related discussions. USCIB members are concerned about the efforts of Russia, China, and others to press for a binding UN cybersecurity treaty or other legal instrument. How can we leverage groups like the Open-Ended Working Group to build broader support for our view that a UN binding cybersecurity instrument risks doing more harm than good?

We can all benefit from the expanding number of nations that make cybersecurity a priority. Perhaps the clearest message from the OEWG process is that nations want to build their capacity, both to keep themselves more secure and to deepen their understanding of cybersecurity practices, norms and international protections.

Cybersecurity is also being addressed in other international fora. The Paris Call now has 78 nations as signatories (as well as nearly 1000 local government, civil society and private sector endorsers). We have all pledged to support nine widely accepted principles, and to work together to help elaborate and implement the principles. Siemens is leading a group of companies to improve supply chain security, called the Charter of Trust. Microsoft helped launch the Cybersecurity Tech Accord to collaborate on making products more secure over their lifetimes. At the OECD, a group has been working to elaborate how a “no hacking back” principle could be applied in practice. These represent just a fraction of the initiatives that have emerged in recent years to promote a safer cyberspace.

Most significantly, we need to make progress expanding the number of nations that can engage fully on cybersecurity practices and policy, and we need to work inclusively to build from principles that have already been agreed to more concrete norms and practices. And then, we can evaluate how to approach new legal instruments.

As you know, USCIB has worked with UN agencies on behalf of its members for decades and is conscious of the opportunities, even under the current circumstances, to support and advance the effectiveness of UN efforts by crowding in U.S. private sector innovation and hands-on engagement. As a valued member of USCIB, where would Microsoft like to see USCIB focus to pursue opportunities to co-create practical shared value with UN partners looking ahead towards rebuilding better and more sustainably?

We need USCIB’s leadership to help advance inclusive global governance innovations. USCIB members can help create new opportunities by sharing and learning from each other on how we can collectively address the big challenges, like strengthening our global capacity and cooperation for public health and pandemic response.

We are all experiencing together the COVID-19 pandemic and the breakdowns and gaps in our global economy that have prevented us from better containment and care. Governments will address these issues – including rethinking some critical supply chains – and private sector actors should be deeply engaged in contributing to the new solutions. Along with civil society, which plays an especially important role in global health, we can all engage to help build an improved system for global cooperation and national preparedness to better manage public health challenges.

Climate change can seem such an overwhelming challenge that it can be difficult to know where private sector actors should start. Across the full range of our economy, one can see innovations and experimentation that hold promise for reducing our climate impact. USCIB can be a valuable convener for how we can learn from each other and how we can strengthen the UN’s efforts through broader cooperation and commitment.

Finally, we should also devote time and effort together to share views and try and build consensus on how our global institutions should be reformed and strengthened. We seem to be at an inflection point where the weaknesses of our global governance systems have been highlighted, but the reforms have not been elaborated and agreed. The missions of many global institutions are important to the USCIB members, and it’s an opportune time to reimagine how global governance can become more inclusive and effective.

ILO Reaches Ratification on Worst Forms of Child Labor

USCIB applauds the recent universal ratification by the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. All 187 Member States of the ILO supported ratification. The Convention forms the basis for international action to eliminate child labor; its application assists governments globally in developing and adopting effective national laws and policies to eliminate child labor practices. The ILO works with employers, trade unions and governments globally to develop and adopt these standards as part of its unique tripartite approach to work issues.

Child labor has dropped forty percent between 2000 and 2016, but progress has slowed in recent years, particularly among children aged five to eleven and in some geographic locations. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an additional risk to progress, potentially leading to the first increase in child labor for the first time in twenty years.

The United States, through the strenuous efforts of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), was an early and prolific supporter in the global efforts to eliminate child labor. DOL funding and collaboration has been central to the ILO’s work through the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, which has supported over 100 countries in their efforts to eliminate child labor, especially the worst forms.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder held a virtual ceremony on August 4 to mark the occasion.

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 Calls for Enhanced Action Against Trafficking in Persons

New York, NY, July 30, 2020: On this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, USCIB joins the global community in calling for enhanced action to combat human trafficking and to recognize the crucial role of first responders in assisting victims of this heinous practice.

“We and our member companies firmly believe that trafficking in persons is a wholly unacceptable affront to human dignity.

“Human trafficking thrives particularly where rule of law is weak; USCIB has been active in working through its global affiliates – the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) – to promote the uptake by governments of relevant international agreements that address governance gaps. We take pride in the actions of the numerous USCIB member companies that are using their global footprints to take proactive measures and champion innovative strategies to uncover and counter human trafficking in the countries where they do business.  

“USCIB is committed to continuing this work in collaboration with all stakeholders to #EndHumanTrafficking.”

Global Business Coalition Launched to Advocate Workforce Use of New COVID-19 Vaccines, Pending Availability

New York, N.Y., July 30, 2020 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB),  The USCIB Foundation, and Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) have launched Business Partners to CONVINCE, a global communication and education initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among private sector employers and employees.

The new partnership will play an integral role in a broader multi-sector CONVINCE (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Education) campaign to advance vaccine literacy and help ensure a strong and swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic through widespread acceptance of safe, effective and accessible vaccines. The CONVINCE business coalition will leverage USCIB’s extensive global network of leading international business organizations and multinational corporations to help large employers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) worldwide to promote vaccine literacy and uptake, while BPSD will help to create public-private partnerships to extend the reach of the Coalition, especially in the developing world. Research has shown that employers are among the most trusted sources of information about pandemic response and recovery.

The global CONVINCE effort was developed initially by Wilton Park, a global forum for strategic discussion affiliated with the UK government, in collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and the Vaccine Confidence Project™ of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Earlier this year, Wilton Park hosted a series of international dialogues to address the urgent need for collective action to ensure widespread uptake of COVID-19 vaccine(s) when available and boost trust in vaccination in general. Participants in these discussions, which included USCIB, agreed to form the CONVINCE initiative as a mechanism to complement and potentially help integrate existing worldwide efforts to build acceptance and uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson stated, “We were pleased to contribute extensively to the Wilton Park dialogues and to highlight the potential role for employers as ‘Trusted Influencers’ as part of the CONVINCE initiative. As the United States affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers, and Business at OECD – three of the world’s largest and most representative business organizations – we expect to engage an extensive network to help corporate employers, SMEs and governments meet the intense global and local challenge of health and vaccine promotion. Together, we can mount an unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Prof. Heidi Larson, Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project at LSHTM, and author of Stuck (Oxford University Press, 2020), a definitive overview of global vaccine hesitancy, stated: “We need to start now to listen and engage local communities to build resilience against COVID-19 and recover as societies, schools and economies build a new future. We are thrilled to be part of this important initiative to build public confidence through CONVINCE.”

Nancy Lee, Programme Director at Wilton Park, said, “We are very pleased that the private sector has taken part in our multisector dialogues and has now made this important commitment to promote COVID-19 recovery by supporting global business efforts to build vaccine literacy and support for the potentially game-changing impact of a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Dr. Scott Ratzan, executive director of BPSD and Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY, said “Many people say the only way we can achieve a ’next normal’ world is with a vaccine, but it will take collective action to make this happen. We are pleased to work across sectors with business leaders, employees and customers on the innovative communication programs that are needed urgently to build the foundation of trust that can lead us towards vaccine-protected communities.”

In collaboration with global leaders in the private and public sector, Business Partners to CONVINCE will be a resource to generate evidence rapidly of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and to develop, test and widely disseminate responsible communication programs in line with the goals of the United Nations and respected science and evidence-driven organizations worldwide.

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. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD (BIAC), and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), 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: Mike Michener, Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation

Email: mmichener@uscib.org

 

About The USCIB Foundation, Inc.: Since 1980, The USCIB Foundation has been dedicated to a single mission: advancing the benefits of a free market economy and promoting the essential role of the private sector in stimulating economic growth and progress in social development. Today, the Foundation pursues that mission through a portfolio of initiatives that strives to inform future choices made by stakeholders and policy makers that benefit people around the world.

Contact: Abby Shapiro, Secretary and Director

Email: ashapiro@uscib.org

 

About BPSD:  BPSD was launched in 2019 as a Center to create new international public-private partnerships in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). BPSD provides a framework for governments, business and civil society to share information, resources, activities and capabilities, and works in collaboration to achieve objectives together that the sectors cannot achieve independently.

Contact:

Dr. Scott Ratzan, Executive Director, Business Partners for Sustainable Development

Email: sratzan@businesspartners4sdgs.org

Jumpstart American Jobs Series: Robinson Shares Views on Trade, Supply Chains, Inclusive Multilateralism

President & CEO of GBA Nancy McLernon interviews Peter Robinson, President of RILA Brian Dodge and President & CEO of FMI Leslie Sarasin

Just as American companies and employers led the way in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, they are now prepared to help drive America’s economic recovery. In a series of virtual interviews, the Global Business Alliance (GBA) has provided a forum for leading executives to share perspectives with top policymakers on what it will take to jumpstart American job growth. In the most recent installment, “Sold. Separately”, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson joined Food Marketing Institute President and CEO Leslie Sarasin and Retail Industry Leaders Association President Brian Dodge to share views from members and to emphasize the importance of open trade, diversified supply chains and inclusive multilateralism. President and CEO of GBA Nancy McLernon led the discussion.

Robinson kicked off the discussion with highlights of what some USCIB members, such as Target, Amazon, Hanesbrands, Nike and Mastercard, have been doing to address the pandemic.

“One distinctive attribute of USCIB members is their global perspective and action as partners in multilateral institutions to advance response and recovery,” said Robinson. “And they are very concerned about the health of the constituent components of their global supply chains overseas, as well as at home.” He noted that USCIB supports initiatives by ICC, IOE and BIAC calling for governmental support of SMEs to ensure business continuity.

Throughout the discussion, Robinson underscored the imperative of free and fair trade and competition, particularly in light of COVID-related disruptions in supply chains which have given air cover to embracing of protectionist measures by governments.

“We are still in the middle of the pandemic,” noted Robinson. “The only way to ensure that economies grow again is to ensure open trade and investment environments. Increased digitization is going to be a big part of that. The business community, including USCIB, has been vocally opposed to resorting to protectionist policies. It is our view that a reversal of many of these policies in place is necessary to ensure a sustainable, post-pandemic economy.”

Robinson also highlighted the depth of global interdependence and the need to join hands across borders to work on an inclusive pandemic recovery: “COVID-19 knows no borders: it’s a one-world enemy and we need a one-world response”. According to Robinson, “We are entering a ‘new reality’ for business and society—and a new imperative to enhance and strengthen employment, societal resilience, and sustainable development. Multilateral institutions are the vehicles to ensure we have an all-out collective and coordinated effort to ‘Build Back Better’—and all institutions across humanitarian, health, economic, trade, and environmental roles need to work closely with representative private sector organizations.”

USCIB Applauds USTR’s Announcement to Include Ed Potter in USMCA Labor Mechanism

Ed Potter addressing the ILO Conference in Geneva in 2015.

New York, NY, July 20, 2020: The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, applauded the U.S. Trade Representative’s recent announcement of a select panel for the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism, a key tool for the enforcement of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement.

“We welcome the inclusion of Ed Potter as one of the select panel members. Potter has worked extensively with USCIB for decades, most recently as former senior counsel for International Labor Affairs and prior to that as a chair of USCIB’s International Labor Affairs Committee (now the Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Committee). Potter is an International Advisory Council Member at the Institute for Human Rights and Business.  For over two decades, he participated on the ILO Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations that holds countries accountable for their obligations resulting from the ratification of ILO conventions.”

Potter is joined by Janice Bellace (Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania), Lance Compa (Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations), Peter Hurtgen (Curley, Hurtgen & Johnsrud LLP), Ira Jaffe (Arbitrator and mediator for labor, employment and benefits disputes) and Kevin Kolben (Rutgers Business School).

The Rapid Response Labor Mechanism, a bilateral annex of the USMCA between the U.S. and Mexico, allows the U.S. to take expedited enforcement actions against individual factories in Mexico that fail to comply with domestic freedom of association and collective bargaining laws.

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 (ICC), the International Organization of Employers, and Business at OECD (known as BIAC), USCIB helps to provide 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.

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.

Brands on a Mission: USCIB Interviews Public Health Expert and Acclaimed Author Myriam Sidibe

Myriam Sidibe

USCIB sat down (virtually) with Myriam Sidibe, author of “Brands on a Mission: How to achieve social impact and business growth through purpose” (Routledge, 2020). “Brands on a Mission” was released on May 26 and immediately secured a #1 New Release Business Ethics category in Amazon Prime, being reviewed by Forbes, the FT and Global CEO Forum. Sidibe has worked with USCIB through The USCIB Foundation’s partnership with Business Fights Poverty; she has also worked closely with The USCIB Foundation “Business Partners for Sustainable Development” Executive Director Dr. Scott Ratzan.


You are a strong believer that brands must play a major role in promoting public health.  What led you to this view?

When I was ten years old, I fell into a septic tank. I couldn’t get out, I flailed around in the dark, screaming for help, sure I would die. I nearly drowned in shit. Today I remember the taste, the smell, the shame like it was yesterday. It remains one of the worst days of my life.

But it was also one of the best days of my life. It kicked off my career in health and hygiene – a career that has taken me all over the world – from Boston to Bujumbura, London to Mumbai, from the public to the private sector. Because I fell in that toilet’s septic tank, I was inspired and motivated to spend decades of my life getting rid of shit, literally! Whether by building toilets or washing hands.

Of course I didn’t want anyone else to have that hellish sensation, that near-death experience, that burning shame. I could relate to the 2 billion people that still lack a toilet.

After studying at some of the world’s greatest universities, I joined an NGO in Burundi, building toilets and handwashing facilities in war zones. Many of them remained unused as people preferred open air to our toilets, often using them for storing dried grain. Something didn’t feel right. We kept talking about ‘beneficiaries’, a term that bothered me deeply, as did the constant focus on the donors who paid for everything. Our success depended on writing grant applications for funding, and those grants measured success by how many toilets we built.

But I kept seeing a lot of empty toilets, as the ‘beneficiaries’ weren’t using them. I wondered, was my career going to be constantly chasing donor money to build unused toilets? Was I going to make decisions for powerless people? As a young African woman, I wanted to be part of the development of my continent. But my work felt both undignified for the beneficiaries and unsatisfying for me. So if the humanitarian route wasn’t for me, what else was there?

I went back to school, equipped myself with a doctorate in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, then spent a few years researching and monitoring children washing hands or rather not washing hands. And then I presented my findings to the company that had funded my research: Unilever. They offered me a job.

And very soon, I fell in love – not with a fancy marketer but with a word. Crazy as this sounds the word was ‘consumer’. I realised that Unilever didn’t treat its audiences as beneficiaries, but as

consumers. Instead of offering hand-me-downs and pity, Unilever treated consumers, however vulnerable they might be, with respect and dignity. That’s because consumers have a choice: they choose with their wallet what to do with their money.

It was an exciting moment that changed everything for me. I went from giving resources to beneficiaries in Burundi who had no choice, to making solutions attractive to consumers who did have a choice, however humble their circumstances. And by doing so I have achieved so much more than I could have done in the public sector alone.

Health and wellbeing is the foundation of social justice – the most rewarding business investment in every sense of the term.  And I know now that through marketing, businesses – brands – are uniquely well-positioned to make consumption conscientious and improve both society as a whole and individual customers.

Do you think the message is getting through?  What are some of the best examples of companies taking a leadership position, in your view?

The message is definitely getting through.  As we are seeing right now with brands like Nike, Walmart, Ben & Jerry’s, Twitter and Google taking a stand on pressing issues such as racism and the accuracy of statements by political leaders, brands are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on society and their potential to make that impact a positive one.  That awareness is all the more clear in the steps many brands, such as Aunt Jemimah and Fair & Lovely are taking to drop racist product names and devote significant amounts of money to raise awareness and facilitate conversations about racism. Brands are recognizing that they no longer have a choice, and that they will be held accountable for their actions.

Unilever as a corporation has set an excellent example by integrating the 1 billion goal into Lifebuoy’s business strategy and actually combining global partnerships for public health.  Other great examples are Danone, which is beginning to identity as a Brand on a Mission, and LIXIL, which developed SATO, short for “Safe Toilet”, which helped vastly improve sanitation conditions  in 25 countries across Africa and Asia, among the poorest of the world’s poor.  LIXIL’s mission is to bring better living solutions to the world for today and the future.

While brands in general are seeing the value of purpose, they have changed and gotten better at this, we still need to hold them accountable.

It seems that Unilever was ahead of its time in recognizing the power of purpose in business success.  Can you talk about your time there?

I spent 15 years at Unilever, where I was provided with an excellent platform for developing initiatives that I could never have undertaken in the public sector. Thanks to this platform I was able to create a movement to change the handwashing behaviours of one billion people, the single biggest hygiene programme in the world.  I also helped  Pepsodent toothpaste improve oral hygiene in Africa and Knorr bouillon cubes fight anemia through encouraging mothers and girls to eat more green leafy vegetables alongside its iron-fortified cubes.

As I mentioned earlier, I was inspired and energized by the fact that Unilever didn’t treat its audiences as beneficiaries, but as consumers, and that however vulnerable these consumers might be, Unilever treats them with respect and dignity. Thanks to all of this  I have achieved so much more than I could have done in the public sector alone. I talk more about this in my book,  Brands on a Mission.  Of course I have my shares of stories of navigating the system as an intrapreneur and as a black woman in dominantly white corporate environment but my purpose which is to inspire and pioneer new ways to address social justice through sustainable business kept me going. And I have not regretted it.

What more can be done to ensure that government and business recognize the need to work together to address global challenges, including of course, COVID-19?

Above all, we need successful examples to follow.  Examples of coalitions between the public and private sectors  which launched Global Handwashing Day, or The National Business Compact for Coronavirus in Kenya, which brings together competing brands in the hygiene business, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, a number of industry associations and the UN family in Kenya whose mandate is to accelerate local action and support government efforts in countering the pandemic. They also collaborate with Business Fights Poverty and other Business networks alike on global best-practice sharing.

Such examples can serve as a blueprint for others striving to do the same.

You’ve called for a “global marketing campaign” to beat COVID-19.  What do you mean by that and who would be involved?

Yes, we need an industry-wide approach to help support handwashing and other prevention measures.  Kenya’s National Business Compact for Coronavirus is an example.  We must get businesses to work together to distribute hygiene products.  In Kenya, we’ve set up over 4500 public handwashing facilities and ran a national campaign. We’re also supporting governments to help more people to grow their own foods.  When people are hungry, they won’t respect any of these measures such social distancing.  When your choice is die of Covid19 or die of Hunger I suppose the choice is easily made.

How do we address issues of public mistrust in our large institutions, particularly government, business and the media?

The most important factors are time and positive examples. It takes time to build trust, and to come back from the mistrust that disparity and inequality create.  Over time, with enough positive examples as reinforcement, we can build (or rebuild) the public’s trust in institutions.

What do you see as the role of organizations like Business Fights Poverty and the USCIB in the post COVID-19 world?

These organizations must leverage their strong reputations and reach to help companies and businesses create brands that embrace social missions, are more inclusive in both their hiring and their marketing, help educate the public about the issues their business affects and are intentional about their social footprint.  By reinforcing the need to continue in a direction that upholds a world of positive change and inclusiveness, such organizations can make a real difference.  And of course share my book lol.

Your new book is titled “Brands on a Mission: How to achieve social impact and business growth through purpose.” In it you say brands are crucial to addressing social justice, infectious disease, violence, fitness and a range of challenges.  Why are they so powerful?

With their natural incentives to get people to buy their products, brands have an inherent ability to reshape people’s views and habits. They have decades of experience convincing consumers to do just that, and the tools, resources and creative heft to change social norms and influence conversations.  They can spread messages far and wide, among both consumers and their employees.

In today’s world, brands have become tantamount to individuals who hold great power.  With such power and influence, it is simply no longer acceptable for brands to remain silent, especially in these times when consumers are craving positive examples to fill the void left by governments.

After spreading the word about the importance of handwashing for years, COVID-19 has put your work in the spotlight.  How are you responding to all the attention and momentum?

I’m going out there and making things happen. I helped create Kenya’s National Business Compact for Coronavirus, and have been doing a lot of speaking to keep spreading the message and building momentum. This has been catalyzing further response, which in turn is inspiring companies to innovate to respond to social and public health challenges we’re facing, including by supporting handwashing.

How do you stay optimistic in this difficult time?

I look at my three children and think about how the future will look when this difficult period has passed. They give me hope that these times will perhaps open up an opportunity for us to build a better world going forward, since the current crises we’re experiencing are exposing so many inequalities and injustices  we need, collectively, to address and rethink.

USCIB Statement on USMCA Entry Into Force

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2020 – The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, welcomes today’s entry into force of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement, preserving and deepening the economic ties in North America and bolstering the global competitiveness of our companies and workers. The implementation of this agreement comes at a critical time of restoring certainty to U.S. industry in the North American market, as the global market is working toward recovery from the impacts of the current crisis.

The three partner countries must continue to work together to ensure effective implementation of this agreement, so that the benefits of the agreement in its updated and modernized provisions including on digital trade and customs can be realized. Over 12 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico, and continuing to build on this economic relationship is important for U.S. industry for future economic growth. USCIB looks forward to a seamless transition to the new agreement.

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 (ICC), the International Organization of Employers, and Business at OECD (known as BIAC), USCIB helps to provide 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.