8th UN Annual Forum on Business & Human Rights

8th UN Annual Forum on Business & Human Rights

November 25-27, 2019

Geneva, Switzerland

This years UN Annual forum on Business and Human Rights will have the theme of: “Time to act: Governments as catalysts for business respect for human rights.”

The UN annual Forum on Business and Human Rights is the global platform for stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper to practice. As the world’s foremost gathering in this area, it provides a unique space for dialogue between governments, business, civil society, affected groups and international organizations on trends, challenges and good practices in preventing and addressing business-related human rights impacts. The first Forum was held in 2012. It attracts more than 2,000 experts, practitioners and leaders for three days of an action- and solution-oriented dialogue.

The Forum was established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011  “to discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights, including challenges faced in particular sectors, operational environments or in relation to specific rights or groups, as well as identifying good practices” (resolution 17/4, paragraph 12).

The Forum addresses all three pillars of the Guiding Principles:

  • The State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication;
  • The corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts with which a business is involved; and
  • The need for access to effective remedy for rights-holders when abuse has occurred, through both judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms.

The Forum is guided and chaired by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and organized by its Secretariat at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Contact Daniella Goncalves for more information: dgoncalves@uscib.org.

BSR Conference 2019

BSR Conference 2019

November 12 – 14, 2019

San Jose, California

The annual BSR Conference is one of the longest-running and most well-regarded sustainability conferences, providing a space for thought-provoking conversations to identify solutions to the most complex global challenges. The Conference convenes more than 800 participants from around the world, including senior executives from Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and governments.

For more information contact Mia Lauter (mlauter@uscib.org).

OECD Works to Build Trust in Business

The OECD held its inaugural Trust in Business Forum in Paris October 1-2. The overarching initiative seeks to promote coordinated action to strengthen trust in the business ecosystem through capacity building solutions, research and knowledge creation, setting standards and guidelines and inspiring policy reform, and promoting partnerships.

Panelists and attendees, including USCIB’s Assistant Policy and Program Manager for CR and Labor Daniella Goncalves, discussed many facets of the trust gap, including why such a gap exists, what can be done to restore trust, the role of measuring and reporting on indicators that drive trust, governing professional services, and the importance of leadership in generating trust. Three concurrent break-out sessions covered the projects that are being piloted.

“The projects focus on moving beyond compliance by embedding a culture of trust within an organization, shaping compliance, best practices for State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and creating a due diligence guide for the energy sector,” reported Goncalves. “Organizers of this new initiative will be releasing a work-plan for the upcoming year soon.”

Following the Forum, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) held its first ever joint meetings of the Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-Corruption and the Commission on Energy and Environment October 3-4. Representatives from National Committees and enterprises assembled to learn about the ICC’s restructuring before having separate Commission meetings.

ICC has recently released a new work-plan that involves five-knowledge hubs, each with its own set of projects for which members of national committees can volunteer. ICC, in its discussion regarding the Revised Draft Treaty on Business and Human Rights, stated its intention to continue to align and work with both USCIB and the International Organization of Employers (IOE).

Pledge to America’s Workers: Spotlight on IBM

Photo source: IBM.com

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

USCIB member IBM has created and expanded multiple training channels, from apprenticeships to innovative reboots of high-school career and technical education programs, all with a focus on preparing students and working professionals for the many well-paying jobs in today’s technology industry that do not always require a traditional bachelor’s degree. These aren’t “blue collar” or “white collar” jobs, but in fact, “new collar” jobs that prioritize capabilities over credentials. For IBM, what matters most in these roles is having the right mix of in-demand skills and a commitment to lifelong learning. IBM believes that companies bringing advanced technologies to market have a responsibility to prepare students and workers for the way those technologies will shape jobs and the very nature of work. And through that commitment, the company is expanding job opportunities in parts of the country where technology jobs have been scarce at best, from Missouri to Louisiana to West Virginia.

New collar roles can be found in some of technology’s fastest growing fields, including cloud computing, cybersecurity and digital design, to name just a few. IBM’s goal is to shift mindsets in the tech industry, opening the hiring aperture for candidates with non-traditional backgrounds and making the tech workforce more diverse and inclusive. Whether you’ve built skills through coding camps, community colleges, apprenticeships or modern career education programs, there’s a job for you at today’s IBM.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the programs IBM has created:

In 2011, IBM helped pioneer the groundbreaking P-TECH public education model so students preparing to enter the workforce can start learning skills for new collar roles during high school. P-TECH addresses education and workforce development challenges. Students can earn their high school diploma and no-cost associate degree aligned to real career opportunities in six years or less. The program combines classroom education with mentoring and workplace experiences, all grounded in relevant skills that are in-demand among American employers. Business partners are essential to P-TECH success, as they provide mentors for students, host site visits and paid internships, and commitment to putting P-TECH graduates at the front of the line for job interviews. IBM is working with governors across the United States to expand this model and prepare more American students for new collar careers. By the end of 2019, 200 P-TECH schools will be serving 125,000 students across 10 U.S. states and 14 countries.

To help expand new collar opportunities for students and mid-career professionals, IBM launched a 21st century paid apprenticeship program in October 2017, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor. This initiative focuses on building skills in cybersecurity, mainframe administration, software development and more. The 12-18 month program pairs apprentices with an IBM mentor to work on real IBM projects, along with traditional classroom learning. The apprenticeship program has proven to be very successful, growing twice as fast as expected in just the first year. By the end of 2019, IBM will have hired 500 apprentices and the company plans to hire 450 more each year for the next five years. Because of the widespread success of this program, IBM teamed with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in January 2019 to create the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition, where IBM’s apprenticeship model provides the foundation for a group of top tier companies to build or expand thousands of apprenticeships in communities coast to coast.

IBM has been a major American employer for more than a century. Two generations ago, the company helped launch the country’s first courses in computer science so workers nationwide could work with machines that were poised to reshape our lives. Today, the company is carrying that legacy forward with AI and cloud computing poised to change everything once more.

See here for other spotlights:

Salesforce

Walmart

United Nations High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development

United Nations High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development

September 26, 2019

New York, NY

The UN General Assembly will hold a high-level dialogue on financing for development (FfD) on September 26, 2019, the day after the meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) under UNGA auspices. T

his date has been updated from September 23, per a letter circulated by the UNGA President on November 27, 2018.

The FfD meeting is mandated in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (para 132), which calls for it to convene back-to-back with the HLPF’s UNGA-level meeting every four years.

This meeting will also take place at the beginning of the UNGA session.

USCIB Discusses International Environmental Policy With EPA Administrator 

L-R: USCIB VP Norine Kennedy, U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson

As the 74th United Nations General Assembly High Level Session got underway, USCIB members met with the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler to discuss advancing U.S. business innovation and investment towards transboundary environmental challenges.

The meeting was a unique opportunity for USCIB members to engage with the Administrator on U.S. business priorities for international environmental engagement and public private partnerships while advancing economic prosperity and environmental stewardship at home and abroad.

“We needy enabling conditions for dialogue and partnership with the private sector in the multilateral system,” stressed USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson during his welcoming remarks. “Therefore, we do need to remove barriers to some business sectors in some parts of UN system – USCIB is working on this, and we would welcome EPA’s support in this area too,” he added.

Wheeler’s remarks focused on current environmental priorities for the EPA, such as the global water crisis, which he noted must be tackled through improving access to safe drinking water, strengthening infrastructure and preventing plastic debris from reaching oceans. Wheeler also emphasized global challenges and EPA involvement to tackle food waste.

“USCIB members had an opportunity to share perspectives on the kinds of partnerships that business and EPA can collaborate on to find solutions to global challenges, in addition to discussing the necessary infrastructure investments that are needed,” said USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy.

Pledge to America’s Workers: Spotlight on Walmart

Source: Walmart

The U.S. Department of Labor has recently announced the 5th annual National Apprenticeship Week, which will take place November 11-17, to showcase the positive impact apprenticeship programs have on addressing the U.S. skills gap and preparing the American workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.  In celebration of this, USCIB has been featuring case studies of members making an impact in the re-skilling and re-training the workforce as part of the White House Pledge to America’s Workers.

This week, we’re featuring Walmart, which is empowering its employees with the skills, confidence and the technology they need to serve customers and their own careers—whether they choose to stay in retail or take their skills to a different field.

Walmart is accomplishing this, in part, through the Walmart Academy training program, which has completed more than 800,000 trainings since the academy opened in 2016. When signing the pledge Walmart stated that their commitment would be partly determined by completion of its internal training programs, including the Academy program, which provides focused training for their associates, both hourly and salaried, through classroom and on-the-sales-floor exercises and tailored integration of technology. Walmart provides instructor-led training, web-based training and virtual reality training.

Last year, Walmart introduced Virtual Reality (VR) to the world of employee training and development by using the technology to upgrade training at Walmart Academies nationwide. With the huge success of that program, the company is now providing Oculus VR headsets to all stores in the U.S. to bring the same level of training to its more than 1 million Walmart associates.

Additionally, Walmart launched the Live Better U program, which provides access to debt-free, in-demand college degree and professional certification programs from nonprofit universities in the fields of technology, business, and supply chain management. Associates can earn college credit for training they receive on the job through our Academies. The Live Better U program also provides high school completion at no charge and college prep courses that translate into credit towards a degree. Since the program launched last summer, more than 13,000 associates have been accepted into the program in all 50 states. Within the first year, students had earned more than 30,000 college credits valued at more than $17.5 million.

For more information on Walmart’s pledge, please read this piece written by Walmart’s Executive Vice President of People, Julie Murphy.

See here for other spotlights:

Salesforce, the global leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) focused on bringing companies closer to their customers in the digital age.

 

US Business Priorities for UNGA High-Level Opening Week

Photo credit: United Nations

USCIB issued the following statement on September 18 for the 75th United Nations General Assembly High-Level opening week. The statement reflects U.S. business priorities.

On the occasion of the High Level Opening Week of the UN General Assembly on the urgent and intertwined topics of climate change and sustainable development, USCIB joins with many others in highlighting the critical importance of inclusive multilateralism as a means to increase pace and impact to meet climate, financing for development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitments and objectives, involving all societal partners, including the private sector. In each of these three areas, economic policies that drive growth and job creation will be critical to generate the necessary resources and enable business to make its strongest contributions to implementation.

UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

USCIB members have placed the SDGs and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda at the center of their sustainable development policies and actions.  As needed progress towards delivering the SDGs is lagging, we encourage governments to do likewise. We urge the United Nations to call for greater global action to achieve Agenda 2030, using the occasion of its 75th anniversary in 2020 to galvanize the international community and actively include business and other non-state actors.

Business for 2030 homepage logoScientific assessment, policy dialogue and assessment all need to integrate business expertise and views on a more systematic basis at international, national and local levels. The private sector brings important experience and knowledge to deliver the 2030 Agenda; it is in the DNA of business to turn challenges into opportunities and to innovate and develop practical and realistic solutions for the problems we face together.  Recent examples of this business commitment and action will be highlighted at the September 25 SDG Business Forum, organized by ICC with the UN GC, the International Organization of Employers and the UN, and can be found on USCIB’s Businessfor2030 web platform.

In addition, a renewed emphasis on public-private sector partnerships is required to crowd-in private sector solutions.   In our view, business is needed more than ever as a source of solutions, real world experience, innovative technology, financial resources and partnerships in the multilateral system.  The UNGA SDG Summit is an opportunity to move toward mainstreaming collaborative approaches among the UN, governments, civil society, and business throughout the implementation of the Agenda 2030.

Climate Change

On the occasion of the UN Climate Action Summit, USCIB recognizes that we must take urgent action to tackle climate change on all fronts.  According to the IPCC, reducing future climate-related risks will depend on the upscaling and acceleration of far-reaching climate mitigation and both incremental and transformation adaptation.  In this regard, business investment, innovation and action, working in partnership with governments, society and other stakeholders, will be vital.

We continue in our active support of the 2015 Paris Accord and the world business position presented at COP21.  We continue to call for the commitment of all governments to this global effort, so that business and government can work together to enact economically sound policies that:

  • Promote development, deployment and use of cleaner and more efficient technologies and energy sources
  • Enhance sustainable energy access and security in all countries
  • Utilize markets and market-based approaches to animate least-cost GHG reductions, working through multilateral trade
  • Drive investment in innovation for mitigation and adaption

We share the concern that there is a shortfall in hoped-for progress toward the Paris goals, and encourage renewed efforts to get back on track.  We welcome ambitious aspirations on the part of organizations and companies and look forward to bringing the best of business forward in addressing this critical global challenge, working closely with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change en route to the 25th Conference of the Parties in Santiago, Chile.

Financing for Development

A major challenge faced in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is lack of financial resources, from both public and private sources.  Domestic resource mobilization is one of the core pillars identified in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to help close this gap, and the private sector is indispensable in this regard.  However, even with robust plans to incorporate financing for development, governments still need to do more to enhance enabling frameworks for investment and strengthen rule of law and institutions needed for inclusive economic prosperity.

At the UN High Level Meeting on Financing for Development, we encourage governments to redouble their efforts to protect human rights, tackle corruption wherever it is encountered in public or private sectors and pursue democratic and transparent processes whether via international cooperation or at home.

At ‘All In’ Event, Business Makes Case for Inclusive Multilateralism to Step Up SDG Action

Wade Warren, chief strategy officer, Deloitte gives opening remarks, alongside USCIB EVP for Strategy and Business Development Abby Shapiro

World leaders will gather for the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA-74) in New York over the next two weeks to deliberate on the need to step up action on the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Climate Change. Many of these leaders from UN agencies, business and civil society, agree that not enough progress or scale has been achieved towards attaining SDG targets. Despite the private sector’s contribution on economic, environmental and social fronts towards delivering the SDGs, constraints to meaningful business engagement remain in some UN forums, hindering productive partnerships that could advance shared value and achieve common goals.

To highlight the importance of meaningful engagement by business in the UN system, USCIB, Deloitte and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) organized an ‘All In’ Conference on the importance of inclusive multilateralism and the role of business in achieving the SDGs. The conference was held at the  Millennium Hilton UN Plaza Hotel on September 11 and brought together over 70 representatives from UN Missions and agencies, U.S. government, civil society, NGO’s and the private sector to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation, share challenges and opportunities, and chart a course for a practical “2020 Action Plan for Inclusive Multilateralism and Business.”

Representative from Save the Children provides civil society perspective at ‘All In’ Conference

Throughout the day-long discussions, speakers and participants agreed that trust between governments, business and civil society has been strained yet remains a crucial foundation and success factor when building long-term, sustainable partnerships to address global challenges such as reskilling of workers, improving nutrition and eradicating poverty.

“If we were to achieve our aspirations, it would require all hands-on-deck, collective action and inclusive partnerships that mobilize resources and expertise,” said USCIB Executive Vice President, Strategy and Business Development Abby Shapiro. “Business can bring solutions, ability to scale and make much-needed investments in infrastructure. And we know that business can do well. We believe the SDGs present a unique prism to see what shared societal value means, especially in terms of social and environmental progress.”

Melissa Kopolow-McCall of AB InBev, a USCIB member, added a company perspective, “In some ways, our company is dependent on the SDGs to sustain its business model,” she said. “So partnerships are key – but it is not clear that all agree that partnerships are welcome or even a good thing. While some may believe that profit is incompatible with public good, we do not share that view.”

Participants also engaged in dialogue with Fabrizio Horchschild, special adviser to the UN Secretary General on preparations for the seventy-fifth United Nations anniversary, Austin Smith, acting U.S. representative to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Robert Skinner, executive director of the UN Office for Partnerships.

USCIB Vice President, Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy moderated the day-long conference

USCIB Vice President for Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy presented USCIB’s two-year ‘All In’ initiative to focus on strengthening inclusive multilateralism through six elements comprising its Vision:

  1. Public-private partnerships for shared value
  2. Leverage public and private science & technology know-how
  3. Scale SDG solutions through supply and value chains
  4. Measure and monitor impact of SDG Action by Business
  5. Inclusive economic empowerment
  6. Investing in SDG infrastructure in all its forms

USCIB has convened meetings focusing on specific elements of the ‘All In Vision’ in Geneva in May, Bangkok in June and NYC in July and will consider how to continue the global conversation about institutional infrastructure and multi-stakeholder partnerships toward practical solutions that mobilize business, governments and the UN system.