USCIB Members Address Network Security During Crises, Environmental Sustainability at IGF

The fifteenth Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was held in two phases November 2 -November 17, featured expert commentary from USCIB members that addressed two of the key thematic pillars of this year’s event – trust and improving the environment. Chris Boyer (AT&T) moderated a USCIB-organized workshop, in which Kathryn Condello (Lumen) highlighted how business and government closely collaborated from the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure secure, stable and reliable connectivity and, in so doing, create a framework for trust in the online environment.

In another USCIB-organized workshop, Matt Peterson (Amazon) and Caroline Louveaux (Mastercard) described their respective companies’ efforts to leverage technologies and their networks to address the planet’s environmental challenges through such initiatives as Amazon’s “Climate Pledge Fund” and Mastercard’s “Priceless Planet Coalition.”

According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, both USCIB workshops attracted thirty-five to fifty virtual attendees from stakeholder groups throughout the world and garnered praise for the relevance and insightfulness of speakers’ comments in view of the still-rampant pandemic and challenges to the global environment.

Under the overarching theme ‘’Internet for human resilience and solidarity,” the annual IGF was hosted virtually by the United Nations given COVID-related travel restrictions. Given its virtual nature, the IGF Secretariat estimated that the event brought together more than five thousand leaders and ‎stakeholders of all sectors and all parts of the world, to discuss the impact of the Internet on ‎our lives within four key thematic tracks: (1) Data; (2) Environment; (3) Inclusion and (4) Trust.‎ As mentioned, USCIB members chose to showcase their corporate expertise under the trust and environment themes in two of the more than 200 IGF workshops.

USCIB Welcomes US Intention to Rejoin the Paris Agreement

Co-creating a U.S. climate plan to restore economies and to deploy American innovation globally

Washington, D.C., November 10, 2020 — The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) welcomes the intention of the incoming Administration to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Multilateralism matters to business, and nowhere is this conviction more important than in addressing climate change, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic and its economic and social impacts.

For over twenty-five years, USCIB members have supported the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and have been fully committed both to international cooperation and partnership with our government to tackle the impacts of climate change while advancing American private-sector driven economic prosperity and environmental stewardship at home and abroad. In our view, it is critical to continue to focus on and champion substantive engagement of U.S. business in all dimensions of the UNFCCC.

Enabling conditions inside and outside the framework of climate policy will be vital to progress towards the objectives of the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement. USCIB is ready to recommend synergistic approaches that mobilize trade and investment to support and deploy innovative technologies and forms of energy.

As the U.S. affiliate of Business at OECD (BIAC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and with its own standing at the UNFCCC and at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), USCIB is uniquely placed to scale and amplify these opportunities across the UN system, and in the OECD and the WTO.

As it re-engages, we encourage the Biden Administration to work closely with the full diversity of U.S. business across every sector of the economy. This will be essential to deliver a U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) that advances U.S. economic growth, energy security, job creation and climate action, for the widest benefit of all in our society.

While this might take time, we believe it is worth the effort to consult and reflect the views and expertise of USCIB members and other business stakeholders on economic, social, energy and environmental dimensions of U.S. actions at home and abroad in this critical area.

We look forward to this new chapter of vigorous American involvement and cooperation towards a successful COP26 climate meeting in 2021, and to U.S. involvement in the UNFCCC process into the future.

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms with operations in every region of the world. USCIB has represented U.S. business at the UNFCCC since 1993. Furthermore, as the U.S. affiliate of leading international business organizations and as the sole U.S. business group with standing in ECOSOC, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

USCIB Issues Recommendations to EU on a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism

The European Union concluded a public consultation last month on a proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), part of the EU’s ambitious Green Deal, focusing on deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. USCIB submitted its members’ response on October 28, drawing on the expertise of its Committees on Customs, Environment, Taxation as well as Trade and Investment.

“The EU CBAM proposal is complex, seeking to “level the playing field” by imposing extra costs on imports from countries with different climate change policies” said USCIB Vice President for Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy. “In our comments, we addressed climate change, trade and technical aspects of the proposal which we believe to be most relevant to American companies doing business with, and in, the EU.”

One critical recommendation was on timing; USCIB encouraged the EU to undertake thorough consultative and data-based economic and trade impact assessments, especially with regards to developing countries, to avoid unintended and counter-productive consequences on livelihoods. “As countries continue to experience the fall out and economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe governments should proceed cautiously before adding stresses to the global trading system,” warned Eva Hampl, USCIB senior director for trade, investment and financial services.

USCIB also stressed the importance of ensuring compatibility with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, warning that some elements of the EU CBAM proposal are unclear, which may lead to time-consuming disputes and delay the positive potential for deployment of innovative technologies and materials vital to climate change action, as well as hinder economic growth and recovery.

Hampl added: “Any further development of this currently counter-productive proposal must avoid and head off climate disputes at the WTO that may lead to unpredictable or unintended negative outcomes in environment, climate and trade negotiations.”

On technical practicality and administrative burdens, USCIB’s recommendation included reducing those burdens and the associated costs of compliance, which would inevitably subtract from resources available for other areas of environmental improvement.

USCIB believes that synergies between trade and environment protection should be the focus of international cooperation, and unilateral measures should be discouraged.

“Open trade advances economic prosperity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it is an essential vehicle to achieve widespread and rapid deployment of climate-related investments and cleaner and more efficient technologies and forms of energy,” emphasized Kennedy. “To meet the commitments and objectives of the SDGs, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, it is clear that more trade will be needed.”

For more information:

Earlier this year, USCIB published a paper Seeking Synergies: Environment, Climate and Trade Policy.

Advancing Inclusive Multilatralism for a UN Decade of Action, Delivery and Recovery

USCIB issued a statement to the UN General Assembly’s 75th session on September 21.

USCIB is ready to join forces with governments and the UN as we continue to respond aggressively and responsibly to the COVID-19 pandemic while advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is in the DNA of U.S. business to turn challenges into opportunities and to innovate and develop practical and realistic solutions.  Businesses of all sizes, sectors and nationalities have already joined forces with governments and the multilateral community to respond aggressively and responsibly to the pandemic crisis while maintaining momentum towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  USCIB members are stepping up to the challenges related to COVID-19 response and recovery across healthcare, food security, social, economic and environmental dimensions.  USCIB and its All In UN75 Initiative will continue to convene business dialogues to design and catalyze “building block actions” towards inclusive multilateralism, converging sustainability and COVID-19 recovery working with business.

Now is the time to mobilize all of society’s actions for sustainable, just, inclusive and resilient recovery and growth, leaving no-one behind.  It is not enough to simply talk about the crucial role of business: the multilateral system and member states must incent and crowd in business for policy dialogue, partnership, implementation and assessment, and in project development and execution.

We urge the UN to:

  • prioritize the essential enablers for action across the SDGs. The Decade of Delivery and Action should approach recovery from the triple shock of COVID-19 to healthcare, jobs, food security and economic activity on the foundation of good governance and rule of law as set out in SDG 16.  For business, fundamental enablers for action have to do with inclusive and sustainable economic growth, supporting innovation and investment, and full and productive employment in order to:
  • Advance human well-being and build human capacity
  • Defeat poverty and reduce inequality
  • Ensure access to essential basic services, such as health, education, water, energy, and sanitation
  • Bring in experts and “do-ers” from the private sector and mobilize countries and other stakeholders to rebuild “forward” throughout their COVID-19 recovery, working with their private sectors in the framework of the 2030 Agenda.

On the occasion of UN75, and with a view to strengthening the UN to effectively respond to current and future challenges, USCIB and its members call on the international community to think outside the box and entertain innovative ideas for:

  • cross-sectoral partnership and cooperation at the national and regional levels
  • new options for gathering useful information to track shared value and impact
  • new ways of conducting meetings that truly enhance substantive engagement of both government representatives, business and other stakeholders.

We encourage Member States and UN entities to:

  • focus on synergies at national and global levels between COVID-19 response and recovery with the SDGs
  • seize the opportunity to mainstream private sector partnership and expertise in that regard into the UN Decade of Action and Delivery
  • support and provide new and concrete engagement mechanisms, institutional infrastructure and opportunities for the UN system, governments, businesses and other stakeholders to work together towards the UN Decade of Delivery and Action
  • recognize that policy assessment and dialogue at global, regional and national level need to invite and integrate business views on a systematic basis across policy design, implementation and tracking.

Truly inclusive collaborative structures at national and global levels to share expertise, engage in dialogue and launch partnerships with business will be critical to strengthened implementation and impact, whether in developing and updating Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), strengthening Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the Paris Agreement, or framing sustainable development investment roadmaps.

We need not – indeed, must not — wait until the pandemic is past history to support and reinforce multilateralism and pursue “inclusive multilateralism” which:

  • promotes peace, cooperation and social justice
  • relies on effective and transparent multilateral bodies
  • advances collaborative approaches among states
  • encourages international dialogue and cooperation to design and implement effective policies
  • engages business across all sectors and other stakeholders in substantive dialogue and partnerships

Such a collaborative “all hands on deck” approach will not only provide benefits to COVID-19 response and a just recovery, but will also be the cornerstone of the UN Decade of Action and Delivery allowing the international community itself to build forward better, for a resilient and strong UN that is recognized as ready for future challenges.

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.

Kennedy Speaks on Border Carbon Adjustments, Carbon Pricing

While the UNFCCC postponed its 26th Conference of the Parties to next year, USCIB has remained active in its policy advocacy on international climate change. Most recently, USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Environment and Energy Norine Kennedy spoke in a virtual “USA-EU Town Hall on Border Carbon Adjustments.”

The June 17 event was organized by the European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition (ERCST) and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.

“Border Carbon Adjustment cannot be viewed in isolation; it is connected to carbon pricing, taxation and carbon offsets, that need to be taken into consideration when discussing this topic,” said Kennedy during her remarks.

The town hall discussion focused on the role that Border Carbon Adjustments (BCAs) may play as part of the EU Green Deal proposal and associated stimulus package.  This concept aims to tackle asymmetry in climate ambition under the Paris Agreement, from carbon leakage and competitiveness standpoints.

“We need to develop and design policies that are fit for purpose and work in synergy with multilateral trade in order to successfully overcome climate challenges and fulfil the Paris Agreement goals,” added Kennedy.

USCIB strongly favors multilateral cooperative approaches and policies not only in the climate space, but also via the United Nations and other international organizations.

Global Industry Urges G20 to Promote Innovation, Digital Tech, Trade

USCIB joined a global group of like-minded industry and trade associations to urge the G20 to work with industry to encourage the open markets and accelerated technology adoption that will drive groundbreaking innovations and creative solutions, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter states: “This will require reaffirmed commitments to reject protectionism, support rules-based multilateral organizations, best practices, processes, and obligations, embrace transparency in legislative and regulatory actions, and invest in the workforce. Such commitments should be taken with a view to prioritizing the enhancement and generation of business opportunities for micro, small, and medium size enterprises (MSMEs) and continued advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means of ensuring inclusive recovery across economies.

In general, the global industry group welcomes the renewed discussion at the G20 this year on the role of digital technologies in promoting economic growth through cross-border innovation and trade. As such, the group recommended several actions including facilitating a global response to the COVID-19 outbreak, advancing global date free flows with trust (DFFT), promoting cross-border innovation and adoption of new technologies, as well as ensuring the benefits of technology are realized by all.

According to the industry group, G20 2019 was a groundbreaking year for the advancement of global digital policy discussions. Under Japan’s leadership, the G20 launched the Osaka Track to accelerate and support the ongoing digital trade discussions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and created the concept of Data Free Flows with Trust (DFFT) in recognition of the fact that open cross-border data flows are the lifeblood of all industries, and that strong protections for privacy and cybersecurity go hand-in-hand with the transparent, non-discriminatory transfer of data across borders. G20 2020 offers governments the opportunity to advance this work towards an open, inclusive vision of the modern global economy.

Robinson Reiterates Commitment to Responsible Business Conduct

Robinson participates virtually in the OECD Global Forum

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson participated virtually in the annual OECD Global Forum on COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), which was held on May 19.

The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically disrupted business and exposed major vulnerabilities in the economy and global supply chains. The event gathered thought leaders from government and business, trade unions, civil society, academia and international organizations to discuss how responsible business conduct can build value and more resilient supply chains in a post-COVID-19 world and how we can use the ongoing pandemic to integrate responsible business thinking into policies and action to bring remedy to people, meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and tackle climate change.

Speakers, including Robinson, discussed a variety of themes including the promotion of business responsibility in a post-COVID-19 world; the role of responsible business conduct in government support and recovery packages and how innovative engagement across stakeholders can promote responsible and resilient supply chains.

Robinson spoke on a panel titled, Building Value: The Role of RBC in Government Support and Recovery Packages. “Business is committed to RBC as highlighted in the MNE Guidelines,” emphasized Robinson. “RBC is good business and the crisis is not an excuse to fail to uphold responsible business conduct. In fact, there are many examples of companies already contributing meaningfully to relief and recovery in terms of donations of personal protection equipment, retrofitting production to produce needed emergency supplies, addressing employee safety, etc.”

USCIB has advocated with the U.S. Department of State to mobilize multilateral development bank assistance for vulnerable economies, particularly for social protection systems and rapid access to relief funds to SMEs to prevent closures and provide funding to workers until they can get back to work.

The annual OECD Global Forum has become the leading event for governments, businesses, trade unions and civil society to promote international dialogue on RBC and contribute to the effective implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

USCIB Works with UN, IOE to Host Virtual Dialogue on Public-Private Partnerships, SDG17

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), USCIB’s All In 2020 Campaign, Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) organized a “Virtual Dialogue on SDG-17 and Public-Private Partnerships: COVID-19 Response and Recovery in the Framework of the 2030 Agenda” on April 29.

The dialogue, initiated by USCIB, offered private sector ideas in lieu of ECOSOC rescheduling its Partnerships Forum in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers from business, academia and government highlighted areas in which partnerships with business can be catalyzed and scaled to tackle COVID-19 challenges while advancing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

USCIB Vice President of Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy moderated the virtual dialogue. “The wide-reaching impacts of COVID19 require integrated solutions and international cooperation – now is the time to advance substantive U.S. business engagement in inclusive multilateralism,” she said in her comments.

According to its Secretary General Roberto Suarez Santos, IOE has been actively responding to the pandemic and has organized multiple webinars and provided resources for employers across the globe understand and mitigate impacts of COVID-19. “The most important element of COVID-19 response by employers federations is what we do together with other government and worker partners. Because of this, SDG 17 is more relevant than ever,” said Santos.

Novozymes’ Senior Advisor of Public Affairs Justin Perrettson, who also serves as co-chair of the USCIB Environment Committee, explained that “international COVID-19 actions must strengthen and animate private-public partnerships, working in new ways and with new partners. To help overcome COVID-19, Novozymes has done everything from utilizing our products in COVID-19 diagnostic kits to helping the most vulnerable communities in healthcare, education and food.”

High-level speakers included:

  • H.E. Ambassador Munir Akram, vice president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN
  • Elliott Harris, assistant secretary general and chief economist, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)
  • Myriam Sidibe, Harvard fellow
  • Dr. Scott Ratzan, executive director, Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD), an initiative of The USCIB Foundation

A recording of the event can be found here.

USCIB Congratulates Colombia on Formally Becoming OECD Member

Pictured from left: Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD (Photo: OECD/Victor Tonelli)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that Colombia has formally become an OECD Member as of April 28, 2020. Colombia is the 37th country to do so in the Organization’s near 60-year history.

According to the OECD, Colombia has now completed its domestic procedures for ratification of the OECD Convention and deposited its instrument of accession. This brings to a successful conclusion an accession process that began in 2013.

“Colombia is an important market for many companies, and we commend Colombia on successfully concluding this lengthy process and committing to the high standards of the OECD,” said USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services Eva Hampl. As the official voice representing U.S. business in this process, USCIB was actively involved in providing input into Colombia’s accession process via Business at OECD (BIAC), the official business voice at the OECD.

OECD Member countries formally invited Colombia to join the Organization in May 2018, following a five-year accession process during which it underwent in-depth reviews by twenty-three OECD Committees and introduced major reforms to align its legislation, policies and practices to OECD standards. These spanned the breadth of policy fields including labor issues, reform of the justice system, corporate governance of state-owned enterprises, anti-bribery, trade, and the establishment of a national policy on industrial chemicals and waste management.