USCIB Attends UN Biodiversity Deliberations as Accredited Organization

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) has just concluded a scientific and technical round of deliberations, held from November 25 – 29. USCIB Vice President for Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy attended the meetings in Montreal, representing USCIB as an accredited business organization, and as the only U.S. private sector group on hand for the session.

The UN CBD is currently developing a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, to be finalized in October 2020 at its 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15), which will be hosted by China. According to Kennedy, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be a comprehensive agreement that will include new targets relating to the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The Montreal CBD meeting reviewed a wide range of topics including scientific assessments of biodiversity and ecosystems, Digital Sequencing Information (DSI), links between climate change and biodiversity, as well as emerging issues.

USCIB is re-engaging in the UN CBD process following discussions in USCIB’s newly launched Biodiversity Working Group, working closely with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Working Group and the Global Industry Coalition (GIC).

Following the meeting in Montreal, Kennedy stated that, “Since the U.S. has never signed the UN CBD or its Protocols on Bio-safety and on Access and Benefit Sharing, USCIB is currently assessing potential impacts and opportunities for its members while tracking the process leading up to COP15.”

Trade Conference Focuses on Inclusive Global Economy

Amid backlash to increased international trade and rising populism and protectionism across the globe, the Institute of Human Rights and Business (IHRB) held a conference on December 3 in London entitled Next Generation Trade: Building a Principled, People-Centred Global Economy. USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog and Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl represented USCIB.

The conference focused on the issue of building a principled, people-centered global economy, and highlighted issues including climate, the future of work, the multilateral trading system, inclusive trade, and data and technology.

USCIB is very active in the space of trade and investment, as well as corporate responsibility and business and human rights.

“With an increasing public focus on international trade, it is imperative for the business voice to be heard in a variety of fora, emphasizing the message that trade and investment are vital contributors to economic growth and development,” said Hampl.

USCIB continues to believe that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a pillar of the multilateral trading system and that the value of this trade institution cannot be overstated, and its continued existence is critical.

Stakeholders at IGF Seek to Avoid Fragmentation of the Internet

L-R: Barbara Wanner, USCIB (moderator); Ben Wallis, Microsoft; Jane Coffin, Internet Society; Alex Cooke, Government of Australia; and David Gierten, OECD

The fourteenth Internet Governance Forum (IGF) wrapped up on November 29 with an invigorated call from stakeholders for an Internet governance mechanism that preserves the IGF’s multistakeholder model and expands its institutional capabilities, amid warnings from UN and German officials about the potential fragmenting of the Internet. USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner attended the four-day IGF in Berlin and reported from the field.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who formally opened the IGF on November 26, warned of the crippling effect of growing nationalism that will increasingly fracture the Internet. “The [digital] infrastructure has become the very core of our global economy… [but] there are some who remain in their little bubble and do not actually exchange views with people who are of a different opinion and that is one of the challenges that we face in this overall development of the Internet,” she said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres offered a similarly dire outlook, telling the IGF audience that the today’s “accessible, free, secure and open Internet is at risk of fracturing along three intersecting lines … a profound digital divide, a social divide and a political divide.”

According to Wanner, Merkel and Guterres concurred that a comprehensive dialogue involving all stakeholders – citing the IGF as a model – can help to prevent such fragmentation, as this approach best ensures a healthy and thriving digital economy that can realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), connect the unconnected and bridge the digital skills gap. “The Internet must not and cannot be shaped only by governments alone because the basic issues revolving around the Internet have an impact on each and everyone’s life, and this is why we need a multistakeholder approach,” Merkel said.

“Against this backdrop, USCIB members who spoke in various workshops highlighted the importance of digital transformation by sharing business best practices and case studies that demonstrate how business’ digital innovations have improved people’s lives and livelihoods, created new commercial and employment opportunities and provided cultural connections,” said Wanner. “Their messages as workshops speakers and in bilateral meetings with UN officials and various government delegations also emphasized the importance of the multistakeholder model in considering the complexity of digital economy issues. In this regard, USCIB members reaffirmed their support for an adequately funded “IGF-Plus” architecture for Internet governance, proposed by the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (HLPDC).”

Joining Wanner were members from Amazon, AT&T, CCIA, Disney, Facebook, Google, ITI, Microsoft, Verisign and Verizon.

Hampl Weighs In On WTO Discussions on E-Commerce

The sixth negotiating round of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce is taking place at the WTO in Geneva this week. The JSI is negotiating a plurilateral agreement on digital trade, also referred to as the WTO E-Commerce Agreement. USCIB Senior Director, Investment Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl is on the ground in Geneva this week on behalf of USCIB and members in support of this important initiative at the WTO, which attempts to write global rules on digital trade.

The JSI started out with seventy-six WTO members and as of this week that number has risen to 81, with Indonesia being the latest to join the plurilateral effort. Issues discussed this week include customs duties, access to internet and data, business trust, capacity building, legal issues, and market access.

“This will be the final round before the WTO General Council meeting taking place December 9-11 in Geneva. Negotiations are expected to resume in the new year at a similar pace, with an eye toward an outcome by MC12 in June 2020,” stated Hampl.

Earlier this year, USCIB issued recommendations on the E-Commerce negotiations, reflecting member priorities, including issues like data flows and localization. USCIB is actively engaging with governments involved in the negotiations in Geneva through various efforts, including the Digital Trade Network and the International Chamber of Commerce.

On Thursday, November 21, USCIB is supporting a side event by the ICC on the Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmission (E-Commerce Moratorium), which is currently expiring at the end of the year. The panel will discuss the implications of not extending the moratorium, including in the context of the recent OECD Report. At this time, fifteen WTO members have proposed to extend the Moratorium until MC12 in June 2020. In order for an extension to be possible, unanimous support is required.

Focus on Sustainability, New Technologies at 2019 World Trade Symposium

USCIB once again sponsored the World Trade Symposium this year November 6-7 in New York. The Symposium, hosted by Finastra and programmed by The Economist Events, brought together researchers, government officials and private sector leaders to discuss “Trade in an Uncertain World.” According to USCIB Assistant Policy and Program Manager Daniella Goncalves, several themes emerged throughout the Symposium, including the impact of new technologies on trade and investment, the need for greater interoperability of new technologies, the importance of sustainability to trade and investment and the continued importance of free trade.

Political uncertainty took center stage during the event’s discussions. The rise of populism and protectionist policies, as well as perceived lack of efficiency and productivity in multilateral fora, were identified as threats to be addressed. Many participants expressed the need to reform multilateral institutions and reaffirmed their support for trade liberalization. The need for U.S. leadership in such reform and trade liberalization activities was highlighted as a priority. Participants were in agreement that the restoration of predictability, reciprocity and fairness is required to bolster global trade and investment.

Digitization has the ability to drive down costs and speed of getting goods to market, but standardization of data protection and date flow regulation are priorities. The importance of regulating data flows and the need for standardized data protection laws, new technologies and the issue of illicit trade were highlighted by several panelists, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Deputy Director-General Ambassador Alan Wm. Wolff, Research Professor of International Affairs & Director of Digital Trade & Data Governance hub Susan Ariel Aaronson and President of the Mediterranean Shipping Company Fabio Santucci.

The use of blockchain was characterized as a means to more efficiently engage in trade and investment, as well as increase sustainability through decreased paper usage. However, interoperability of blockchains and standardization of regulatory frameworks remain hurdles to wide-spread deployment of this technology.

It was noted that the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is working with an Asia-based partner to develop a blockchain technology to enable traceability and tracking of goods. The goal ultimately is to promote interoperability among various blockchain networks and technology platforms.

Recognizing the rise of consumer interest in sustainability, the issue of sustainable trade and investment was discussed. According to the panelists, millennial consumers are driving interest in and profitability of sustainable goods and services. Trade has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty; to continue to see the benefits of trade, growth needs to be inclusive. USCIB is actively advocating on these important issues in various multilateral fora, including at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

USCIB Announces Launch of a Biodiversity Working Group

Responding to intergovernmental policy discussions on biodiversity, their implications for American companies, and the opportunity for private sector nature-based solutions, USCIB has announced the launch of a new multi-committee Working Group on Biodiversity. The Working Group is drawn from USCIB’s Environment, Intellectual Property and Innovation and Food and Agriculture committees to reflect the cross-cutting nature and impacts of proposed policies for U.S. companies doing business in global markets. It will begin its work in early November, with a focus on tracking and disseminating business-relevant information about the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) negotiations to interested USCIB members.

According to USCIB Vice President for Energy, Environment and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy, this new group will also provide a platform to work with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Working Group, the Global Industry Coalition and other business initiatives related to biodiversity. The Biodiversity Working Group will also facilitate USCIB representation at UN CBD meetings (by both members and USCIB staff) and support the development of USCIB positions as needed.

“The UN CBD is developing a post-2020 biodiversity framework, which will feed into the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” noted Kennedy. “We hope to use this new platform to work with our international partners, such as ICC, to ensure that governments adopt policies that encourage business innovation and include business in future discussions.”

USCIB is planning to attend a workshop on November 6 in Madrid, organized by ICC and Business for Nature Consultation. Workshop participants will discuss and develop draft policy recommendations to governments that are needed to further scale-up existing actions and commitments taken by business to reverse nature loss and restore natural systems.

 If you are a USCIB member interested in joining this Working Group, please contact USCIB Vice President for Energy, Environment and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy.

USCIB Issues Climate Change Statement on UN Day

In light of the United Nations celebrating the ratification of its 1945 Charter on October 24, USCIB issued the following statement:

“On this UN Day, USCIB would like to join others in recognizing the indispensable importance of the UN system to American business in advancing international cooperation and providing the infrastructure in which we create shared value and serve society.

USCIB reaffirms our support for U.S. involvement in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Accord. We welcome the growth of the American energy economy from fossil fuels to nuclear to renewables to new options for energy efficiency. The Paris Accord allows every country to define its own pathway to tackling climate risks, and the U.S. has already made good progress on that front, reducing emissions and improving efficiency while advancing its own energy security, growing U.S. jobs and opening new markets for innovative American technologies.

Without U.S. leadership at the Paris Accord table, promoting its strategic and economic interests alongside other countries, opportunities for the deployment of these American private sector solutions could be threatened. We encourage the Administration to revisit its decision and submit, as appropriate, its own visionary plan to the UNFCCC and Paris Accord, in which American energy objectives can co-exist with environmental protection, private sector innovation and sustainably meeting both American and global growing energy demands.”

Private Sector Led Active Role at FAO Meetings on Food Security

46th Session of the CFS, Rome. Copyright ©FAO.

USCIB and its members participated in the bilateral meetings at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 46th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) the week of October 14 in Rome to discuss the private sector’s commitment to ending hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity for all.

“It was a very successful week in Rome,” said USCIB Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener, who leads USCIB’s work on food and healthcare policy. “This year’s meeting of the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) was the largest and most diverse delegation to date, with 211 farmers, agri-businesses and youth representatives from forty-five countries. USCIB looks forward to furthering its work on nutrition policy and working more closely with these stakeholders.”

The USCIB delegation, led by Michener, participated in several bilateral meetings with U.S. Ambassador Kip Tom, Dutch Ambassador Hans Hoegeveen, the Mission of Italy to the UN, the German delegation from Berlin, and the Secretariat of the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In addition to these meetings, PSM members organized five side-events on the topics of nutrition, agroecology and innovation, multi-stakeholder partnerships and youth. These side-events were attended by over 900 CFS delegates. This year PSM also participated in the World Food Day activities at FAO.

The PSM is a network that coordinates input from business into the UN Committee on World Food Security. This year’s delegation included representatives from USCIB members including Bayer USA, CropLife International, International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA), Mars and PepsiCo.

USCIB Members Win Prestigious State Department ACE Award

The U.S. Department of State has announced the four winning U.S. companies for the 2019 Secretary of State Award for Corporate Excellence (“ACE Award”) and, again this year, USCIB member companies are well represented. The two awards open to large multinational companies are both going to USCIB members – Procter & Gamble Asia Pacific wins the ACE for women’s economic empowerment for its gender equality leadership across the Asia Pacific region while PepsiCo in India is recognized for sustainable operations from their community water programs, which focus on water replenishment and water conservation in agricultural practices. P&G is a repeat winner, having won in 2011 for its work in Nigeria and Pakistan.

Nearly every year, one or more USCIB members are among the very select group of winners recognized by the Department of State for exemplary corporate responsibility around the world. Nominations are invited every year from U.S. ambassadors on the ground in each foreign country. These senior U.S. government officials have a keen understanding of the local impact these companies have and the exemplary work they are doing in specific international markets.

The awards will be presented by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to senior executives from each company in a ceremony at the State Department on October 31. Details on the winning company efforts are included in this State Department news release.

USCIB salutes its member company winners this year. “It seems every year one or more USCIB member companies end up winning the prestigious State Department ACE awards,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “I’m not surprised since our members are widely recognized among the most progressive, most socially responsible companies in the world. P&G and Pepsi are among our star members, exemplifying all that’s good in the broad areas of corporate responsibility, including sustainability, women’s empowerment, community development, and investing in their employees around the world. When leading U.S. companies trade, invest, and get involved overseas, they bring not only their commercial, economic and technical expertise and their market power; they also bring their values, including corporate responsibility and ethical behavior. I salute Pepsi and P&G as winners this year as I have other member companies in previous years. These award winning companies do us at USCIB and our country proud.”

Pledge to America’s Workers: Spotlight on Amazon

Photo credit: Amazon

Following the announcement of the U.S. Department of Labor’s 5th annual National Apprenticeship Week running November 11-17, USCIB is showcasing the positive impact apprenticeship programs have in addressing the U.S. skills gap and preparing the American workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Each week, USCIB is featuring case studies of members that are making an impact in re-skilling and re-training the workforce as part of the White House Pledge to America’s Workers.

USCIB member Amazon has created a 2025 pledge to upskill 100,000 of its employees across the United States. To accomplish this, Amazon has dedicated over $700 million to provide people across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores and transportation network with access to training programs that will help employees move into more highly skilled roles within or outside of Amazon.

Amazon has both created and expanded a broad range of training programs based on the insights provided to them by their workforce, including:

The Amazon Technical Academy which offers tuition-free programs and job placement for employees who want to move into the software engineering field. The Amazon Technical Academy combines instructor-led, project-based learning with real-world application, and graduates of the program master the most widely used software engineering practices and tools required to thrive as a software engineer at Amazon. For more information on this program click more here.

Amazon’s Associate2Tech program, is a fully-paid 90-day program that provides fulfillment center associates with the opportunity to move into technical roles, regardless of their previous IT experience. Associate2Tech is designed to place associates in on-the-job training for IT support technician roles and pays for their widely recognized A+ Certification test. No existing degree is needed, and participants receive paid study time during their work week. To learn more about this initiative click here.

The Machine Learning University (MLU) is an initiative helping Amazon employees with backgrounds in technology and coding gain skills in Machine Learning. Machine learning plays an increasingly important role in customer innovation. MLU helps employees learn core skills to propel their career growth – skills that are often taught only in higher education. MLU is divided into six-week modules and the program requires only half to one full day of participation a week. MLU is taught by more than 400 passionate Amazon Machine Learning scientists. Originally launched as a small cohort, the program is on course to train thousands of employees.

In another example, Amazon’s Growing Career Choice program is a pre-paid tuition program for fulfillment center associates looking to move into high-demand occupations. Specifically, Amazon has agreed to pay up to 95% of tuition and fees towards a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study. Since launching Career Choice in 2012, over 25,000 Amazon employees have received training for high-demand occupations that include aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies and nursing. The company is investing in expanding the program by building additional classrooms in its fulfillment centers globally and expects to have over sixty on-site classrooms by the end of 2020.

Another exciting program is Amazon Apprenticeship, which is a Department of Labor certified program that offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships with Amazon. This opportunity is a combination of immersive learning and on-the-job training. The program has already created paths to technical jobs for hundreds of candidates who are working to break into careers that include cloud support associates, data technicians and software development engineering.

Finally, AWS Training and Certification works on closing the cloud skills gap in the tech industry. Amazon employees have access to free classroom and digital training to build their cloud computing knowledge, as well as discounted AWS Certification exams to validate their learned cloud expertise. Cultivating these in-demand skills opens opportunities both within Amazon and in other organizations around the world as demand for cloud talent continues to grow.

See here for other spotlights:

IBM

Salesforce

Walmart