Call for the ISSB to prioritize development of a thematic social-related disclosures standard

The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) has issued a proposed set of future Agenda Priorities for public consultation. These include both ‘human capital’ and ‘human rights’ with regard to social issues. Shift, the B Team and the World Benchmarking Alliance share a concern that this approach will foster further confusion and complexity in the market given the extent to which these two categories are overlapping and intertwined. 

In this set of ‘key messages’ we jointly highlight the important opportunity ISSB now has to set the right foundations for disclosures on social matters by starting with a general thematic standard, much as it did for climate. This would enable a clear architecture for social issues and deliver the contextual information that investors need regarding those aspects of corporate governance, strategy, risk management and metrics that are particular to social matters. Our three organizations are disseminating these messages in the hope that they resonate with others who may be responding to the ISSB consultation. We invite everyone to draw from them as they see fit.

Announcement of the John Ruggie Fellowship Program 2023 Host Organizations and Application Process

New York, NY, May 25, 2023 – John Ruggie was a preeminent scholar-practitioner in the field of international affairs. He was, among other roles, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on business and human rights, the author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the founding chair of Shift, the nonprofit, mission-driven organization dedicated to implementing the UNGPs. In 2022, together with John Ruggie’s family, Shift announced the establishment of the John Ruggie Fellowship Program to honor John’s life and legacy and enable talented business and human rights students to advance their careers and contribution to the field. It particularly seeks to support students who may otherwise lack access to such opportunities.

Each year, Shift will partner with a small number of leading organizations to support the placement of individual Fellows. Shift is pleased to announce that the host organizations for the first year of the John Ruggie Fellowship Program are:

  • Accountability Counsel, a nonprofit organization that amplifies the voices of communities around the world to protect their human rights and environment. As advocates for people harmed by internationally financed projects, they employ community-driven and policy-level strategies to enable access to justice.
  • PepsiCo, a leading food and beverage company that recognizes they have a clear responsibility to respect human rights throughout their business and broader value chain. To help ensure that they are in the best position to prevent, identify, and address potential impacts across their value chain, they have established a global human rights management approach that is guided by the UNGPs.
  • Verité, a nonprofit organization that illuminates and addresses serious human rights and labor rights violations in factories, farms, and other workplaces around the world. They work with private and public sector clients by building their understanding of labor rights problems in global supply chains and developing their abilities to solve those problems.

The organizations are reflective of the diversity of actors in the business and human rights field, and share a demonstrated commitment to the implementation of the UNGPs. They all have considerable experience running fellowship and internship programs and are committed to delivering a high-value immersive experience for the Fellows.

We are confident that each of these host organizations will provide a rich learning experience for individual Fellows looking to gain practical experience and access to ideas and networks that will support their growth in the field of business and human rights. We look forward to working with them to ensure a successful inaugural year of the John Ruggie Fellowship Program.

Caroline Rees & Rachel Davis, Shift co-founders

Application Process:

Each host organization will provide detail on their John Ruggie Fellowship Program opportunity and application process. Interested individuals should follow the host organization’s guidance. When available, that information can be found at:

Shift will add links to fellowship postings on this page, as available.

About the John Ruggie Fellowship Program:

Professor John Ruggie was a preeminent scholar-practitioner in the field of international affairs. As a political scientist, his work focused on the impact of globalization on international rule-making. Professor Ruggie applied his theoretical work to complex global governance challenges directly through his work at the United Nations (UN). This included his appointment in 2005 as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative (SRSG) on business and human rights. During his six-year mandate, he authored the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, establishing them as the authoritative global standard on business and human rights. In the years since, the UNGPs have provided the basis for the field’s convergence around a shared set of expectations with regard to companies’ impacts on people and have been increasingly integrated into other international standards, industry commitments and guidance, and national and regional policy frameworks and legislation.

Throughout his career, John was a tireless champion of both students and practitioners in the fields in which he worked. He consistently sought out, consulted and supported individuals from all backgrounds and perspectives, to grow and enrich the community of people working to turn the vision of the UNGPs into a reality. The John Ruggie Fellowship Program was created by Shift – the non-profit, mission-driven organization dedicated to implementing the UNGPs of which John was the founding chair – in collaboration with John’s family to honor his life and legacy.

For more information on the John Ruggie Legacy Fund and John Ruggie Fellowship Program, please visit the webpage.

Operationalizing Remedy for Financial Institutions with the Equator Principles Association 

On 25 October the Equator Principles Association (EPA) released a suite of new due diligence tools designed to enhance access to grievance mechanisms and enable effective remedy in project finance transactions. Shift was pleased to partner with the EPA’s Working Group on the development of the tools, which will be valuable for Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs), their clients and consultants. The tools provide guidance for users to enhance remedy at various stages of a transaction and due diligence process.

The Equator Principles:
The Equator Principles set the financial industry benchmark for identifying, assessing and managing environmental and social risks in projects. The Principles are adopted by 137 financial institutions in 38 countries, and apply globally, to all industry sectors and to various project-related financial products.

The tools mark a notable step in the evolution of the standards and guidance of the EPA. They reinforce the importance of improving outcomes for people affected by projects financed by financial institutions in line with international standards (UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and OECD Guidelines). They do so by focusing specifically on human rights impacts in projects and on seeking to ensure that people affected have access to remedy.

These tools should help financial institutions address a persistent “remedy gap”: namely, that in too many cases, remedy is not available for people who are harmed by business activities that are part of projects they finance. The guidance draws from existing practice amongst leading financial institutions that already understand and demonstrate the important role they and their peers can play by using their leverage to enable remedy. This can have a critical role in strengthening the remedy ecosystem, resulting in better outcomes for vulnerable workers or communities affected by projects.

Two of the five tools (RM1 And RM2) specifically address the need to “front-load” for effective remedy.  Practice has shown that financial institutions can assess a client’s preparedness for remedy upfront in the due diligence process, and then use leverage to enhance higher risk clients’ capacity and commitment to provide remedy should it become necessary. The tools provide concrete guidance to execute this approach.

Importantly, the EPA also sets these tools in context. They provide guidance that will most typically apply in the common scenario where financial institutions are linked to a harm, but have not contributed to it by enabling or incentivizing the actions that led to it. They also recognize, however, that there may be situations where financial institutions contribute to harm and that they will then have a direct role to play in providing remedy. This distinction is important in light of the persistent myth that financial institutions will never cause or contribute to impacts in their portfolio, whether through their actions or omissions. This notion has been rebutted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OECD, which have a mandate to interpret the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines respectively, looking at both commercial banking as well as development finance contexts.

Practically speaking, contributing to remedy or supporting a client’s efforts to provide remedy will likely follow very overlapping paths – both will often require using and/or enhancing leverage with clients and working directly with them to execute remedy on the ground.  The new EPA tools provide many useful practical tips to support financial institutions in meeting those objectives.

Understanding Linkage and Responsibility for Remedy
“See the EPA Human Rights Guidance Note for a discussion of the ways in which EPFIs and other actors might be connected to adverse impacts, including the UNGPs framework of cause, contribution and linkage. As that note and additional authoritative guidance from OHCHR and the OECD highlight, financial institutions can, in some instances, contribute to project-related impacts. In such cases, EPFIs will have a responsibility not only to use leverage to encourage remedy, but to contribute directly to remedy in a manner proportionate to their contribution. EPFIs should carefully analyze their involvement with impacts in specific cases to understand their responsibility related to remedy.”
Source: EPA Remedy Tools

There are five related due diligence tools in the EPA suite of tools covering grievance mechanisms and remedy:

  • GM1: Grievance Mechanism Design: Diagnostic Questions
  • GM2: Monitoring Effective Grievance Mechanism Performance: Sample Reporting Metrics
  • RM1: Assessing Preparedness for Remedy: Diagnostic Questions
  • RM2: Strengthening Preparedness for Remedy: Sample Leverage Actions
  • RM3: Using Leverage for Remedy after Impacts Occur: Sample Leverage Actions

The tools are all available on the EPA’s website. Although written in the context of project finance, they will offer inspiration for commercial banks and development finance institutions who are working to take an ‘ecosystem’ approach to remedy.

For more on financial institutions and remedy, see Shift’s Financial Institutions Practitioners Circle publication, “FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND REMEDY: MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS”.

For more information please contact Ashleigh Owens, Financial Institutions Lead at ashleigh[dot]owens[at]shiftproject[dot]org.  

Comments by Shift on the Draft Report on Minimum Safeguards

Shift welcomes the publication of the Draft Report on Minimum Safeguards by the Platform on Sustainable Finance, and its call for feedback on the content and recommendations. The report bypasses simplistic approaches and grapples with the challenge at the center of this endeavor, which is how to assess the adequacy of a human rights due diligence process – and how to do so at scale.

There is no single or simple way to meet this challenge, not least because current data in the public arena on companies’ social performance is not up to the task. At the same time, the report rightly notes that developments relating to EU reporting requirements are set to change that reality, and should increase the availability of high-value information. Of course, in many cases, this will still require that analysts and assurance providers have the skills to contextualize and assess that information.

We believe the report’s recommendations point in the right direction, but may require further elaboration in some instances. We also recognize that a first version of the safeguards will be – and should be explicitly acknowledged as – a starting point grounded in today’s best ‘art of the possible’, that will need to further evolve in the years to come, as available data and experience with social indicators improve.

This document contains our comments on the Draft Report on Minimum Safeguards, which were submitted to the Platform on Sustainable Finance.  

IOC Announces Commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Today the International Olympic Committee (IOC) published its new Strategic Framework on Human Rights. This is informed by the strategic recommendations made by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Rachel Davis in their 2020 report for the IOC on aligning the organization’s approach with the UNGPs. 

Welcoming the IOC’s announcement, Prince Zeid and Rachel Davis said:

“Shift welcomes the IOC’s public commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, announced today in its new Strategic Framework on Human Rights. This is a significant development for the IOC and it sets an important precedent for sports bodies across the Olympic Movement to drive meaningful change in preventing and addressing risks to people. 

As the organization moves forward, new approaches will be needed to effectively tackle some of the most severe impacts facing athletes today, including harassment and abuse, voice and representation, and the need for greater access to remedy – informed by the perspectives of those directly affected. This Framework is a crucial first step. We look forward, together with other stakeholders, to supporting the IOC as it works to meet its responsibility to respect human rights in practice.”