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.

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.

 

Annual Conference Discusses Human Rights Trends and Developments

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

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

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

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

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

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

The event’s agenda is available here.

 

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.

USCIB Member Marriott Announced Winner of Prestigious Integrity Award

Marriott International has been announced as the 2018 winner of the Coalition’s award.
USCIB works with the Coalition for Integrity on anti-bribery and anti-corruption issues, many of them related to the OECD’s Anti-bribery Convention.

 

For the fifth time in eight years, a USCIB member company has won the coveted annual Corporate Leadership Award of the Coalition for Integrity, a leading U.S. anti-corruption organization.  Marriott International has been announced as the 2018 winner of the Coalition’s award.  The award will be presented at the Coalition’s annual Integrity Awards Dinner on October 29 in Washington, DC.

Marriott joins fellow USCIB member companies Bechtel, GE, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo as winners of the Corporate Leadership Award. USCIB has worked closely with the Coalition for Integrity on a range of anti-bribery and anti-corruption issues, many of them related to the OECD’s Anti-bribery Convention. USCIB Vice President for Investment and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly has been a longtime member of the Coalition for Integrity’s Policy Advisory Board.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson congratulated Marriott on being selected for the Coalition’s prestigious award, “All of us at USCIB are delighted to see another outstanding USCIB member company recognized again this year with this major anti-corruption award.  USCIB has worked closely with the Coalition for Integrity in recent years to combat bribery and corruption in international business. Marriott has a well-deserved reputation as a leader in this important area and is a very deserving recipient of this award.  USCIB and our member companies are devoted to integrity and responsible business conduct.”

 

Robinson Meets With B20 Business and Labor Leaders

L-R: IOE President Erol Kiresepi, US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson in Mendoza, Argentina

As preparations accelerate for this year’s Group of 20 Summit, which kicks off November 30 in Buenos Aires, host country Argentina held a number of key meeting of business, labor and other stakeholders on September 6-7 in the Andean foothills city of Mendoza. USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson attended alongside high-level representatives of G20 governments, business and labor.

Among the gatherings were the G20 Labor Ministerial, which featured cabinet-level labor officials from each of the G20 nations, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, and the Global Employers Forum, organized by the B20 (Business 20), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Deloitte.

At the latter event, USCIB’s Robinson took part in a discussion on implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, alongside Kyra Kaszynski of Deloitte and Dante Pesce, chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Pointing to the Business for 2030 platform launched by USCIB to align business activities with the SDGs, Robinson urged governments and employers groups to do their utmost to foster support for the SDGs in their national business communities, including among small and medium-sized enterprises.

L-R: Gerhard Braun (BDA), IOE President Erol Kiresepi, B20 Chair Daniel Funes, B20 Policy Sherpa Fernando Landa and USCIB’s Peter Robinson

“Many SMEs connect with larger companies via cross-border commerce, trade, and investment,” Robinson stated. “So there can be a link and opportunity for larger companies to pass these ‘good business practice’ principles on to smaller national firms, both through supply chain links and and by making expectations clear.”

Recognizing the relevance of cooperation and constructive discussion, business leaders released joint B20 statements on employment and education. “As key priorities for the G20 Argentine presidency, both statements aimed to provide concrete, consensus-based, policy recommendations focusing on implementation,” the B20 stated. “In this collaborative spirit, our mission has been to identify and address current challenges and opportunities in the fields of education and employment while advancing with a concrete call to action for G20 countries. We believe these are valuable efforts to lead the way into more sustainable and inclusive societies.”

Robinson, IOE President Erol Kiresepi and Gerhard Braun, vice president of the German employers federation BDA, serve as co-chairs of the B20 Employment and Education Task Force. The B20 will hold its summit in advance of the G20, on October 4-5 in Buenos Aires.

 

Remembering Kofi Annan, Who Forged Bonds With Business as UN Secretary General

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at USCIB’s 2003 award gala
  • The “consumate diplomat” made outreach to business a central part of his tenure
  • Annan showcased his inclusive approach in remarks at USCIB’s 2003 award gala

USCIB members and friends around the world were saddened by the passing of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who died on August 18 at age 80. Annan’s two terms as head of the UN were marked by intense conflict – but also optimism about the world’s ability to overcome divisions and promote shared goals and values.

“Kofi Annan was a consummate diplomat and global statesman,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “We can honor his legacy by continuing to strive toward the goals he championed so passionately: peace, collective security, economic and social development, and a commitment to ensure that all oars are in the water, moving together toward a common future.”

Overlooked in some accounts of Annan’s legacy was recognition for his work in establishing strong bonds with the private sector, in support of the UN as an institution and in driving the world toward ambitious goals for economic and social betterment. He championed the Millennium Development Goals, and he urged the UN – which carried a legacy of sometimes severe criticism of the private sector – to work more closely with business.

Annan put these sentiments on display when he spoke at USCIB’s International Leadership Award Dinner in 2003, which honored Charles O. Holliday, Jr., then the chairman and CEO of DuPont, who used the occasion to make a strong pitch for business support of the UN Global Compact, Annan’s initiative to secure private-sector support to advance international human rights, environmental protection and related goals.

Speaking just a few months after the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq without a mandate from the UN Security Council, the secretary general declared that the UN was at “a fork in the road, with one path leading toward true revitalization and effectiveness, the other toward disappointment and despair.”

Annan urged the business community to stay engaged as the UN undertakes to reinvigorate its efforts to promote peace and stability around the world. “It would be unthinkable for the private sector not to be closely involved, both in policy-making discussions here at headquarters, and in projects on the ground,” he said.