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

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.

USCIB, ILO Director General Discuss Role of Business

L-R: Laura Rubbo (Walt Disney Company), Guy Ryder (ILO), Peter Robinson (USCIB), Kevin Cassidy (ILO), Gabriella Rigg Herzog (USCIB)

As the International Labor Organization (ILO) gears up to celebrate its centennial in 2019, ILO Director General Guy Ryder met with USCIB and 20 of its company members in Washington DC on July 20 to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. Topics covered included areas of mutual business including the ILO’s centenary in 2019, the “Future of Work,” the role of governments, the role of business at the ILO, and the work of the standard-setting committee on violence and harassment at the International Labor Conference.

For the centenary, USCIB will seek to organize a business-focused event in 2019, and also participate in an ILO event to celebrate the Philadelphia declaration. Members highlighted that they see the Future of Work, which is the theme of the ILO’s centenary celebration, as a positive opportunity to highlight the impactful role that government education and employment policies, as well as business initiatives to offer apprenticeship and training opportunities, can have to prepare workers for the jobs of the information economy and beyond. 

USCIB and its members also stressed the fundamental role governments must play in writing laws that meet international standards and effectively enforcing them, and they stressed the importance of ILO’s continued focus on helping governments carry out those core functions. Business also recommended that the ILO could helpfully prioritize providing support for governments and other tripartite partners with essential job creation, skills, employment and other relevant topics. 

USCIB also spoke very clearly about the issue of violence and harassment at work and emphasized U.S. employer commitment to this topic. USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog stated that the topic is right, the time is now – especially in light of the #metoo movement, and the Employers’ hope and expectation is that the ILO is the right institution to push this issue forward. Herzog underscored that Director General Ryder and the ILO Office can provide needed support for the tripartite constituents to help reach an agreed text that provides clear and practical definitions for both public and private sector employers so they can understand their responsibilities and so that governments can be attracted to take the next step and ratify the ILO instrument. An ILO instrument that sits on the shelf that no government ratifies will not have any impact on the ground in counties where guidance and change is needed – most especially on this critical issue of addressing violence and harassment in the workplace.

As the U.S. affiliate to the International Organization of Employers (IOE), USCIB represents U.S. employers at the ILO and provides key input to the governance and policy setting activities. 

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.”

USCIB Welcomes New Partners to SDG Business Web Platform

From L-R: Ambassador Kevin Moley, Assistant Secretary for International Organizations (State Department), Peter Robinson, President and CEO (USCIB), and John Denton, Secretary General (ICC)

On the margins of this year’s annual United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at UN headquarters in New York, USCIB convened a dinner for business, UN organizations and governments to highlight private sector action and impact towards sustainable development, using the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a blueprint.  The Businessfor2030 Dinner was co-organized with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and its Swiss and UK National Committees, as well as with the International Organization of Employers (IOE).

In addition to announcing the expansion and globalization of the Businessfor2030 web platform, the dinner and its speakers also set the stage for the SDG Business Forum, organized by ICC and held at UN HQ on July 17.  Recently appointed Secretary General of the ICC John Denton addressed the Businessfor2030 dinner, issuing a challenge to the international community to unleash the power and potential of business in order to attain the 2030 objectives across economic, social and environmental areas.  “We need to help people understand the power of working with the private sector,” emphasized Denton.  Kris DeMeester, representing the International Organization of Employers, underscored the broad commitment of employers all over the world to advance sustainable development through employment, in the workplace and working closely with other social partners.

“Three years after the launch of the SDGs, we continue to take seriously that all companies, all sectors must engage to deliver on economic, environmental and social progress,” stated USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson in his opening remarks. “No company can sit this out.  We commend our own members for having embraced the SDGs and moved forward to embed them not only in corporate responsibility programs, but increasingly across aspects of their planning and investment.”

The Businessfor2030 webplatform is a unique resource for business, governments and others in the UN community who are seeking to understand and pursue the SDGs.  It presents business examples of SDG action, and provides information on public-private partnerships. Established by USCIB in 2015, it now features over 250 examples of business action, covering more than half of the 169 specific SDG targets.

USCIB Applauds UN on Global Compact for Safe Migration

USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg delivered a statement on July 13 at the United Nations headquarters in NY in support of the final draft of the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular Migration (GCM). Goldberg delivered the statement on behalf of the International Organization of Employers and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Business Mechanism.

The Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration was agreed upon by UN Member States following several negotiating rounds and aims to protect the interests of both migrants and citizens.

“Regular migration is critical to the success of our enterprises – as well as our economies,” said Goldberg. “That success requires a comprehensive and balanced approach – such as that sought in the GCM – that facilitates the economic contributions of migrants while protecting them from predatory practices.”

SDG Countdown: Protect Ecosystems and Strengthen Means of Implementation

This year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum (UN HLPF) on sustainable development will be held from July 9-18 under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council. The theme for the forum will be “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” focusing in part on Sustainable Development Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, that will be considered each year.

As part of USCIB’s countdown to the UN HLPF, USCIB is highlighting some initiatives that its member companies are working on to transform toward sustainable and resilient societies, while subsequently meeting the SDG targets set by the UN. More examples of initiatives can be found on USCIB’s Business for 2030 website.


SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

One initiative to highlight is a project by Novozymes to support the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB) in terms of the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.  Novozymes has decided to acknowledge and support the principles of both the CBD and the Nagoya protocol and has internal procedures to ensure that it lives up to its commitments. Novozymes promotes fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promotes appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed. They are regularly assessing outcomes of CBD meetings with a view to undertake a broader strategic discussion on its management and reporting of biodiversity issues. By sharing the benefits of genetic resources, Novozymes is taking steps to achieve SDG 15 and to increase biological diversity.

SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, that will be considered each year:

Another project to note is an initiative by Mars to ensure that everyone working with their extended supply chains should earn sufficient income to maintain a decent standard of living. This is done through Mars’ Farmer Income Lab, an open-source “think-do-tank” that will enable Mars and others to leverage their unique human, social and financial resources to identify and activate solutions needed to eradicate smallholder poverty in global supply chains. This year, the Lab’s focus is on identifying effective actions that buyers can take to enable smallholder farmers in global supply chains to meaningfully increase income. This will culminate in a ‘What Works’ publication, providing an overview of promising models, sourced from academic literature and stakeholder dialogues, that increase incomes and demonstrate what factors are most successful. Mars’ commitment to increasing incomes is part of their Sustainable in a Generation Plan, a $1-billion investment to accelerate sustainable growth by achieving SDG 17 through global partnerships.


Click here for more information on what USCIB has done so far during this year’s HLPF.

UN High-Level Political Forum Countdown: Ensure Water, Sanitation and Energy for All

This year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum (UN HLPF) on sustainable development will be held from July 9-18 in New York under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council. The theme for the forum will be “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” focusing in part on Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, and Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

As part of USCIB’s countdown to the UN HLPF, USCIB is highlighting select initiatives by its member companies. In particular, USCIB is selecting some company initiatives that are working to transform toward sustainable and resilient societies, while subsequently meeting the SDG targets set by the UN. A more comprehensive list of examples can be found on USCIB’s Business for 2030 website.

SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

One impactful project to note is an initiative by Monsanto that led to the development of a well for clean drinking water in Malawi. A team from Monsanto Malawi discovered that students at Kaphulika Primary School near Lilongwe had a commute of two miles to the closest water source, and therefore limiting drinking water and hygiene water at the school. The team subsequently constructed a water pump on school grounds to provide clean and reliable drinking water for over 950 children and the village of 3,000 people. The children were also gifted with reusable water bottles to take water home every day after school. The development of the well is another step forward for Monsanto to help achieve SDG 6 for Malawi and the world.

SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

In order to achieve SDG 7 to ensure renewable energy around the world, Mars has added solar panels to factories in California and aims to create renewable infrastructure in the U.S. and the UK. By the end of 2018, Mars will be using or purchasing renewable electricity to cover 100% of its operations in 11 countries. The use of renewable energy will help Mars reach its goal in reducing GHG emissions 100% by 2040 from direct operations and will help drive action for global climate change.

Tune in for next week when we will highlight company initiatives on Goal 11: make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and Goal 12: ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

USCIB Co-Hosts Event on Employing Persons With Disabilities

L-R: Rob Mulligan (USCIB), Yves Veulliet, (IBM), Stefan Tromel (ILO)

USCIB joined IBM and the International Labor Organization’s Global Business and Disability Network to host an event on June 26 in Washington DC on “Sustainable Employment of Persons With Disabilities Globally.” The event brought together representatives of companies with extensive experience in this area to discuss ways to address important topics such as ensuring digital accessibility, bridging the digital skills gap and promoting the employment of persons with disabilities in emerging economies, particularly in China and India.

“In our role as the U.S. industry representative to the International Organization of Employers, USCIB has been a strong supporter of the ILO GBDN from the beginning,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan during his opening remarks. “USCIB members recognize that doing our best to protect and strengthen the economic, political and social position of every member of society is fundamental to economic and social progress. What companies are increasingly coming to realize – and what smart companies have known for some time – is that there is also a strong business and economic case for employing a variety of under-represented groups: the larger, more diverse and more prosperous the universe of potential employees and customers, the better for business.”

Mulligan was joined by other high-level company representatives throughout the day-long event including those from Merck, Tommy Hilfiger, E&Y and Accenture. Over 50 representatives from government, industry and civil society attended.

USCIB SDG Series: Countdown to UN’s High-Level Political Forum

This year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development will be held from July 9-18 under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council. The theme for the forum will be “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” focusing on the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development (included every year)

USCIB is deeply engaged in all aspects of the 2030 Development Agenda, advocating for good governance and the rule of law, economic growth, investment in infrastructure, enabling environments to foster innovation, strong public-private partnerships and above all, an open channel for business input into policy negotiations and implementation.

USCIB believes that good governance and rule of law, infrastructure, enabling environments and private-public partnerships are the building blocks of success in achieving prosperity and eradicating poverty. While much work remains, USCIB members are already doing their part to ensure the realization of these goals. Leading up to the HLPF, we will feature these goals in this publication. Additionally, we refer you to USCIB’s Business for 2030 website which showcases the private sector’s contributions to the SDG’s. Stay tuned!

Unilever Chief Paul Polman Named Chair of ICC

Paul Polman
Photo credit: ICC

Paul Polman, CEO of consumer goods company Unilever, has been elected chair of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) at the ICC World Council in Paris today, June 21, 2018.

Having led Unilever since 2009, Polman is a leading advocate for the role of business in driving progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under his leadership, Unilever set an ambitious vision to fully decouple business growth from its overall environmental footprint and increase the company’s positive social impact through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Polman’s commitment to securing long-term sustainable growth and development is also reflected in his membership of the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council, and his role as Chair of the B Team and Vice-Chair of the UN Global Compact.

“I am very pleased to join the ICC leadership at a pivotal moment for the organisation and the international community,” said Polman. “It is more vital than ever for business to take a leading role in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and responding to the many global challenges we collectively face. As the voice of the private sector on the world stage, ICC is uniquely poised to mobilize business towards long-term gains that are both socially and economically productive.”

Earlier this year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded Polman an honorary knighthood (KBE) in recognition for his services to business and received the Treaties of Nijmegen Medal, for his contribution to building a more sustainable world. He is also a recipient of France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, recognizing his work in support of the landmark UN Climate Change (COP21) agreement in Paris.

“Throughout his business career, Paul Polman has consistently set himself apart as champion of sustainable development and inclusive growth,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton. “I am very pleased to have him on board as ICC approaches its 100-year anniversary and have no doubt that his leadership will help us achieve the ambitious new course we have set.”

Polman succeeds Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises, who assumes the role of honorary chair having chaired the ICC Executive Board since June 2016. ICC has accomplished several landmark achievements under Mittal’s leadership. In April 2017, Mittal met with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and as chair of the first private-sector organisation accorded permanent Observer Status at the UN General Assembly, Mittal attended a Heads of State lunch meeting attended by U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Brazilian President Michel Temer as well as other global leaders. Mittal also joined global business leaders to call for international cooperation to shape an interconnected world ahead of the Hamburg G20 Summit in 2017, underscoring how common rules and strong institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) are vital to ensuring that globalization benefits everyone, everywhere. Mittal highlighted the potential of e-commerce to revolutionize global trade flows and has recently responded to rising trade tensions, to urge the U.S. and all its trading partners to find new ways to resolve tensions through multilateral dialogue — and without recourse to further tariff increases.

“We are delighted that Paul Polman was elected Chair of ICC and while in Paris last week, I had the opportunity to congratulate him in person,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson.  “Paul’s leadership in and commitment to the UN Development Agenda have been vital in allowing business to play a more active role in crucial multistakeholder dialogues, as well as in contributing to the SDGs. This is an exciting time for USCIB/ICC-USA since the ICC World Council also confirmed Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard as ICC First Vice-Chair. Mastercard plays an active role within USCIB, and we presented Ajay with USCIB’s International Leadership Award last fall. Finally, we are grateful to Sunil Mittal for his recent service as ICC Chair in advocating on behalf of business and we wish him well as Honorary Chair and in his future endeavors.”

The ICC World Council also confirmed the following leadership positions today:

  • Alexis Mourre was elected to a second term as President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration
  • Yassin Al Suroor, Chairman of A’amal Group, was named ICC Vice-Chair
  • Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard, was named ICC First Vice-Chair

Banga was the 2017 honoree of USCIB’s International Leadership Award.

Four new Executive Board members were also elected:

  • Monica de Grieff, President, Bogota Chamber of Commerce (Colombia)
  • Giampiero Massolo, Chairman, Fincantieri S.p.A. (Italy)
  • Xu Niansha, Chairman, China Poly Group Corporation (China)
  • Zabihullah Ziarmal, CEO, Cefe Group International (Afghanistan)