Shift Submission to IFRS Consultation on a Sustainability Standards Board

In December 2020, Professor John Ruggie submitted his views to the IFRS Foundation for their consultation into the proposed establishment of a Sustainability Standards Board (SSB) to develop global reporting standards on sustainability. Professor Ruggie urged the Foundation not to limit the initial work of a future SSB to environmental issues and suggested that:

  • The urgency of today’s inequality crisis, including environmental justice issues, requires a parallel effort to integrate the underlying human rights issues into a new standard-setter’s work.
  • The IFRS Foundation take care to ensure that the framing and presentation of a new standard-setter are clear regarding the constraints of its mandate to issues that have demonstrated narrowly-defined financial materiality, and that they do not imply that it covers all sustainability issues of critical importance with regards to companies’ social and environmental performance.

Audio | Can the UN Guiding Principles Unlock the Power of other Narratives to Transform how Business Impacts People?


It is perhaps a cliché to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced the urgent need to reimagine the relationship between business and people. Over the past few months, we’ve seen how the workers that companies depend on the most – essential workers – are also very often the ones that are most vulnerable to harm. We know things need to change. But, what conversation should we have to move things forward?

Is it a political conversation about how structural inequality leads to lack of opportunity in our societies? Is it a discussion about how companies should report not only to shareholders, but to stakeholders affected by the business? Should we first talk about the interconnection between people and planet in building a sustainable future? Or is it about the incentives that investors create in how they measure business performance?

The answer, perhaps, is all of the above.

The truth is, for some time now, we’ve had multiple conversations happening at the same time about how we can transform the way business impacts people. And, while they are all very much needed, the truth is that these “narratives” that we use to try to persuade decision-makers, end up competing for limited attention. The risk, of course, is that they end up diluting each other.

How can we make sure that we make the essential points that each narrative has to offer, while offering a cohesive story that bridges them together?

In this short conversation, Caroline Rees (Shift) and Phil Bloomer (BHRRC) discuss how Business and Human Rights may offer a unique way to navigate this broad array of civil, political, economic, social and cultural impacts on people, both through their focus on those impacts that reach the point where they undermine people’s dignity and equality, and through their underpinning in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which provides a standard for what we can and should expect of business as well as governments.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles, these two leaders in the business and human rights space talk about how we can and must seize this unique moment to define a shared vision that brings the power of these narratives in ways that can bring about the change we need.

This episode is a partnership between:

Shift and Capitals Coalition partner to develop an accounting model that will help assess and disclose corporate progress towards achieving living wages

New York, NY.

Shift is delighted to announce that, in partnership with the Capitals Coalition, the organization will launch a 21-month initiative to develop an accounting model for living wages. 

Since 2018, Shift has explored accounting methods as one of the six focus areas of Valuing Respect, a three-year research and co-creation project to develop better ways to evaluate business respect for human rights. As Rebecca Henderson of Harvard Business School writes in Reimagining Capitalism, “It turns out that reimagining capitalism requires reimagining accounting… even tiny changes in accounting rules can change behavior in profound ways.” 

In an expert roundtable, hosted in June 2019 by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, participants agreed that focusing on living wages is a sound starting point to make meaningful progress towards reflecting the value of respect for human rights in accounting practices.

“An initial focus on living wages made sense, both because wages are relatively easy to measure, and – more significantly – because a living wage has catalytic power to open the door to the realization of many other human rights.”

Caroline Rees President – Shift

Following the roundtable, Shift partnered with the Capitals Coalition in designing the new project. The aim is to develop an accounting model for companies to assess and disclose progress towards living wages in both their workforce and supply chains. The project will be based on broad and inclusive consultations with experts and stakeholders; and it will build on important work already done in the field, including respected methodologies for calculating living wages, which will provide an essential benchmark within any accounting model. 

“This project is incredibly important for how companies understand the value created by people – social and human capital. By including a living wage in the accounts, we can address one of the biggest challenges of implementation – that it is seen purely as a cost, ignoring the fact that investing in living wages can generate a return for the individuals, the company and society.”

Mark Gough CEO – Capitals Coalition

The project has already attracted high levels of interest from companies, investors and civil society organizations. It will be launched in January 2021.

To learn more about the project and for any other inquiries, please email communications [at] shiftproject [dot] org

Statement on the Publication of the Report ‘Recommendations for an IOC Human Rights Strategy’

New York, NY.

In March 2019, we were asked by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to offer expert advice on how the organization could meet its human rights responsibilities.

Human rights are about valuing and ensuring individual dignity. And respect for peoples’ dignity is fundamental to the values enshrined in the Olympic Charter. As we assessed what the IOC had in place, we found many examples of how the organization has carried out important work on human rights, even if it has not always been described as such. But this work has typically happened in silos, independently of an overarching or coordinated approach on human rights. Recently, this has begun to change as the IOC has become more explicit about the centrality of human rights in its own operations, its role as custodian of the Olympic Games, and its leadership of the Olympic Movement. However, more remains to be done.

Our assessment included consultation with a broad range of IOC staff as well as with expert stakeholders – from human rights NGOs to trade union representatives – whose perspectives informed our understanding of the human rights challenges and opportunities across the Olympic Movement.

Our final report – delivered to the IOC in March 2020 – sets out our recommendations on how the IOC can meet its human rights responsibilities and demonstrate leadership on human rights for the Olympic Movement as a whole through a comprehensive strategy that builds on Agenda 2020 and is aligned with UN human rights standards. Today, we welcome the IOC’s decision to publish our report in full – we believe that this demonstrates the organization’s commitment to engaging with its human rights responsibilities and shows needed leadership on human rights for the Movement.

We are also encouraged that the IOC has announced that from January 2021, it will move forward on building its internal capacity on human rights and start developing an overarching strategy, in line with our recommendations. We also commend the IOC’s commitment to explore an amendment to the Olympic Charter.

While we know that some of our recommendations remain challenging for the IOC to implement, we appreciate that the organization is making them public and inviting dialogue on them. We look forward to continuing to engage with the IOC as it moves forward.

For media inquiries regarding this statement, please contact communications [at] shiftproject [dot] org.