Climate Workshop Emphasizes Business Engagement

The workshop presented a draft USCIB report on Business Engagement in Implementation of National Pledges under the Paris Agreement.
Participants discussed what will be necessary to mobilize business action, investment and innovation to advance national and global actions toward the Paris Agreement.

The Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF), of which USCIB is a leading member, joined forces with the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (Business at OECD) to convene a day long workshop at the OECD Conference Center on October 10 in Paris. The objective of the meeting was to present a draft USCIB report on Business Engagement in Implementation of National Pledges under the Paris Agreement, and to discuss what will be necessary to mobilize business action, investment and innovation to advance national and global actions toward the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement.

This event was organized on the margins of the OECD Climate Change Experts Group meetings on October 8-9 and included key players from the OECD and the UN Climate Change Negotiations:

  • Director of the OECD Environment Directorate Rodolfo Lacy
  • OECD Climate Change Experts Group Chair Helen Plume (New Zealand)
  • Fiji Ambassador Deo Saran
  • Chair of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body on Science and Technology Advice, Paul Watkinson (France)

Opening the meeting, Secretary General of Business at OECD Russel Mills stated that as key implementation details of the Paris Agreement are completed, business is looking for “smart rules that would animate business expertise and enthusiasm.”  Business representatives from Japan, Morocco, the Netherlands, France, the UK, Sweden, and others provided examples of public-private partnerships to advance, assess and improve national pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Professor Henry D. Jacoby, of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Sloan School of Management, reflected on the unique ability of business to connect near-term pragmatic action to long term objectives and planning inherent in the multi-decadal efforts needed to address climate change.  “Doing otherwise,” he said, “risks not only stranded assets, but stranded communities and economies.”

At the end of the session, USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy presented a BizMEF proposal for an inclusive and recognized platform for business to be introduced in the UN climate change agreement.  This platform could be similar to the Global Business Platform in the Convention on Biological Diversity, organized on national and regional focal points to involve companies of all sectors, sizes and nationalities, with the mandate to respond to government requests for information or input, and to offer both implementation and policy advice to the UNFCCC process.

“We need an all hands on deck approach to climate policy design, innovation deployment, infrastructure investment and action to deliver current national pledges,” emphasized Kennedy.  “Bringing business to the table in an ongoing and mutually beneficial working relationship, linked between national and global levels, will be indispensable to growing prosperity, energy access and security and resilient solutions to climate change.”

Over 50 participants from governments, academia, the UN and business joined the discussion, which also considered the recently announced IPCC Special Report on 1.5 Degrees C.  This landmark report found that limiting an increase in global temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels was possible, but would require unprecedented actions.  Parties to the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement have pledged to keep global temperature change to no more than 2 degrees C, yet there is growing political pressure in the UN climate negotiations to agree a more stringent target of 1.5 degrees.

The USCIB Report will be finalized to reflect the October 10 workshop discussions, and presented at the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties, from December 2 – 14 in Poland.

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.

USCIB Members Highlight Business Role in SDGs During UN General Assembly

L-R: Gabriella Rigg Herzog (USCIB), Daniel Schwartz (Mastercard), Chris Gray (Pfizer), Shaun Mickus (J&J), Louise Kantrow (former Permanent Representative of the ICC to the UN)
USCIB convened a side event, “Making, valuing and communicating SDG Impact: U.S. Business Signposts for the Next 5 Years.”
In 2019, the UN will consider the first three years of implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and consider possible changes.

 

As governments gathered in New York for the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) from September 24 – 28, convened under the Presidency of Ambassador María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), USCIB members highlighted the contribution and practical experience of the American private sector in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

USCIB convened a side event, “Making, valuing and communicating SDG Impact: U.S. Business Signposts for the Next 5 Years.” The event was hosted by Deloitte on September 27th and gathered representatives from business, government and the UN system to share information and experiences in three areas critical to successful SDG action by businesses:

  1. Embedding sustainability into the core of company’s business models
  2. Measuring the impact of sustainability programs and initiatives
  3. Communicating impact to target audiences and key stakeholders

In 2019, the UN will consider the first three years of experience and implementation with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and consider possible changes.  USICB’s event made clear that, three years into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, substantial progress has been made thanks to the commitment and action of U.S. business, but also flagged areas where stronger links with business would enhance progress towards the SDGs.

Director of the Office of Global Change at the U.S. Department of State Thomas DeBass acknowledged that business will deliver most of the funding for the SDGs, so it follows that governments and the UN must do a better job communicating to business. “Only 10 percent of the financing to achieve the SDGs will come through official development aid and related government sources,” said DeBass. “The other 90 percent will come about through private-sector investment. But we are still trying to convince the 90 percent using the language of the 10 percent.  We need to reorient our sales pitch to speak the language of business.”

Meanwhile companies recognize the business case for embedding sustainability across their operations. In fact, Novozymes’ Head of Corporate Sustainability and Public Affairs Claus Stig Pedersen noted, “we don’t have a sustainability policy, we have a business system that adjusts to sustainable development.”

Chief Strategy Officer for International Development at Deloitte Wade Warren pointed out that, “achieving the SDGs could unlock an additional $12 trillion in business opportunities.”  Yet, while business enthusiasm for the SDGs and the business opportunities that the SDGs create, is growing, the full potential of collaboration between the private sector, governments and the UN system has not been unlocked.

Norine Kennedy, USCIB vice president for environment, energy and strategic international engagement, called for a practical approach to “inclusive multilateralism” that will animate business to further develop and deploy technologies, know-how and investment to advance the Global Goals.

On September 27, the UN also held the third high-level meeting on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), which was attended by USCIB Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener. The two previous high-level sessions on NCDs took place in 2011 and 2014. The meeting on September 27th served as a comprehensive review of the prevention and control of NCDs and focused on the theme of strengthening health systems and financing for the prevention and control of NCDs, on each country’s path towards achieving universal health care, including through sharing evidence-based best practices, scientific knowledge and lessons learned.” The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) UN Representative in New York Andrew Wilson represented the private sector. The outcome of this meeting was an adopted UN Declaration on NCDs. 

The UN General Assembly is the supreme governing body of the United Nations.  This year’s session that will continue throughout the year into spring 2019 will focuses on the theme, “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibility for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.”

USCIB will continue to work with member companies, governments and the UN system, to share expertise and foster partnerships to continue to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including through the Businessfor2030 web platform.

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

Subscriptions to “International Business” are available free upon request to representatives of USCIB member organizations. Contact us to subscribe.

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.

 

Op-Ed Dispels Myths of Business “Conflict of Interest” at UN

As the annual United Nations General Assembly is underway in New York this week and next, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson contributed a timely op-ed in The Hill, titled “UN’s private-sector phobia prevents if from hitting its lofty goals.”

“It is increasingly evident that the international community is not on track to deliver the expected results under the Paris Agreement (as well as the broader U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change) or the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals,” writes Robinson. “So why, at a moment when governments and international organizations should be actively seeking ways to encourage business to step up, is the private sector being accused of having a ‘conflict of interest’ or of actively seeking to upend global consensus?”

Robinson points out that accusations of conflict of interest are rampant across UN agencies, including the World Health Organization and in the context of the UN climate talks. He then outlines six “myths” about business influence in international policy-making and dispels them one by one.

To read the full op-ed, please visit The Hill.

 

Climate Talks Make Limited Progress, As Clock Runs Out on Implementation Rules

Meeting adjourned with 300+ pages that negotiators have to transform into a set of rules for governments and businesses.
Sticking points: differential treatment of reporting procedures by developed and developing countries and lack of attention to reporting on financial assistance commitments.

 

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change convened an additional negotiating session in Bangkok, Thailand from September 4-10. Representatives of over 190 governments gathered in intense discussions to conclude rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which are due at the next climate governing body meeting in Poland from December 4-14.

While government representatives worked around the clock in Bangkok to develop streamlined negotiating text that could be finalized at the end of the year, the meeting adjourned with over 300 pages that negotiators will have to tackle in the limited time left and transform into a set of rules that governments and businesses can use as a blueprint for investment, energy mix and other long term decisions.

While the Bangkok deliberations were to focus on operational details relating to reporting, tracking and assessing government actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with nationally determined targets under the Paris Agreement, the discussions became contentious.

Sticking points related to differential treatment of reporting procedures by developed and developing countries, and the lack of attention to reporting on financial assistance commitments dating back to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement itself. Developing countries also continue to argue for the inclusion of loss and damage liability in future UN climate agreement procedures.

Business representatives from the International Chamber of Commerce and USCIB tracked the talks, meeting with key delegations from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy commented on the U.S. business stake in what might seem to be mainly technical details: “An important consideration for U.S. business is preserving American competitiveness and ensuring deployment of U.S. innovation in global markets. The nuts and bolts of reporting under the UN climate agreement will determine how reliably we can assess comparability of effort between countries, so we appreciate the Administration’s continuing focus on clear rigorous rules for reporting such governmental actions across every nation.”

USCIB Gears Up for Talks on Global Environment Pact

The Pact is to be a binding, universal “umbrella text” providing a common global legal basis for environmental policy principles.
USCIB will work with the administration to communicate member views on developments and plan for USCIB engagement in the first substantive negotiations that will be held in January 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The first negotiating meeting for a proposed UN Global Pact for Environment (GPE) took place at United Nations headquarters in New York September 5-7. USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog attended those deliberations, alongside USCIB members Pfizer and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The meetings focused on organizing the GPE negotiating process and its future meetings, preparation of a UN Secretary General’s report on gaps in international environment policy that will serve as a basis for further negotiations and government positions and priorities relating to the GPE.

UN Member States have voted to launch a negotiation toward the development of a GPE earlier this year. An initiative of French President Emanuel Macron, the Pact is to be a binding, universal “umbrella text” providing a common global legal basis for environmental policy principles, such as the polluter-pays and precautionary principles, environmental rights-based approaches and other international environmental regulations and treaties.

“USCIB plans to submit a scoping paper for business on the GPE, raising questions and concerns based on what has already been agreed in relation to the GPE, such as the extent of U.S. business involvement in the negotiation process, assessment of GPE implications for international environmental policy and potential implications for the SDGs and existing environmental treaties, arising from the proposed GPE,” noted Rigg Herzog.

USCIB will work with the Administration to communicate member views on GPE developments, and plan for USCIB engagement in the first substantive negotiations on the GPE that will be held in January 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Please contact Norine Kennedy for more information, or to get involved in USCIB’s Environment Committee.

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).

World Youth Skills Day Focuses on Innovation, Emerging Technologies

On the margins of the High-Level Political Forum at the United Nations July 9-18, the International Labor Organization (ILO), in partnership with UNESCO, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the UN Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Portugal, hosted an event on July 16 titled “World Youth Skills Day 2018: Sustainability and Innovation.”

The ILO estimates that in 2017, 70.9 million young people were unemployed, and in 2018, while the rate will remain stable, more young people will enter the work force. Currently, technological innovations are quickly transforming industries and skills demands, potentially creating a talent gap in the future. Therefore, it is imperative for education and skills development systems to equip youth with the right education and skills to face these changes, while supporting a sustainable future and the transition to a green economy. Given this, the event aimed to bring together member states, UN agencies, the private sector and civil society, among others, to discuss how to leverage innovation and emerging technologies to increase youth employment, and the implications for skills needs and development.

President of the UN General Assembly Ambassador Miroslav Lajčák, gave the keynote speech, and other high-level speakers included ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake, as well as the Permanent Representatives to the UN from Sri Lanka and Portugal.

USCIB Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog participated on the all-female interactive panel that followed the keynotes, and she underscored the key role of government education and labor market policies, as well as the contributions that companies and employer organizations can make to support skills acquisition, including digital, among youth.

“Close and regular dialogue between governments, business and civil society – and especially youth – is critical to our shared goal of closing the gap between the training being taught in schools and the skills needed for jobs of the future,” said Rigg Herzog. “While focusing on the technical and STEM skills is fundamental, we must not lose sight of critical soft skills like creativity and critical thinking, which are also keys to successful integration into the workplace. Companies and government education systems would also be wise to ensure effective inclusion of women and girls, given that they are 50% of the global workforce and  thus a human resource asset to be valued.”