Conference ‘Business & Human Rights: Towards a Common Agenda for Action’

In December 2019, Shift and the Finnish Presidency to the EU Council co-organized the conference ‘Business & Human Rights: Towards a Common Agenda for Action’, a space where businesses, government representatives and civil society organizations engaged in a multi-stakeholder dialogue to discuss business and human rights and, in particular, a collaborative and constructive way forward on this critical agenda.

In his initial remarks, Professor John Ruggie emphasized that while we often hear the term ‘smart mix’ being employed to mean voluntary measures, the concept is broader and should be understood to include mandatory measures. (Watch the full video)

During the conference, participants discussed the role of state financing in promoting human rights due diligence; the role of regulation in a smart mix to foster business respect for human rights; and the use of collective leverage and cooperation to improve human rights outcomes.The conference concluded with the launch of Agenda for Action -the outcome paper of the conference. 

SMEs and the Responsibility to Respect Human Rights

In April 2019, Shift and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) co-convened a workshop to explore the challenges, experiences and leading practices of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in fulfilling their responsibility to respect human rights. This summary note, published by IOE, provides an overview of the key takeaways.

Also read: SMEs and the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: Busting the Myth that Bigger is Always Better

Addressing Sector-Wide Risks Through Negotiated Covenants in the Netherlands

Seven agreements have been signed as part of this process: garment and textile | banking | gold | natural stone (pilot) | food products | insurance | pension funds |

Shift is pleased to be providing expert support to the SER, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as part of a pioneering process that has brought together companies, governments, unions and civil society, across key business sectors, to try to prevent human rights risks and ensure responsible business conduct in critical global value chains.

The process also seeks to address environmental impacts, corruption and taxation practices and other negative impacts covered by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

“In our work on fostering sustainable supply chain management among Dutch industry, Shift has been extremely helpful in elevating the policy discussion and business practice in the area of business and human rights. The Shift team’s unique combination of strategic policy advice and practical experience with companies and other stakeholders has been invaluable to our work.”  

Mariëtte Hamer, President, Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands

This work is being undertaken in close collaboration with the SER – the advisory and consultative body of employers’ representatives, union representatives and independent experts that has been fostering sustainable supply chain management among Dutch industry since 2008. | See our explanatory note on prioritization of human rights risks prepared for the SER

In each sector, parties have identified severe risks that they are facing and developed individual commitments and collaborative approaches to address them. With the support of Shift, the SER has developed guidance -contained in its Advisory Report– to help parties ensure that the measures developed are credible, and aligned with international standards.

The expectation is that parties:

  • Use credible methodologies, aligned with leading international frameworks, to identify sector-wide human rights, environmental, corruption and related risks;
  • Identify collaborative approaches to building and exercising the leverage of sectors and their stakeholders to address such risks;
  • Involve relevant stakeholders in credible, dialogue-based multistakeholder processes.

Shift has played a key role in building the capacity of all parties to play their envisioned roles as leaders, participants and conveners of a credible process aiming to assess and address sector-wide risks. This support has included workshops for a number of sector associations, together with expert stakeholders, held in The Hague and hosted by the SER. | Learn more about how Shift facilitates multistakeholder dialogue on business and human rights

Over the past years, Shift has also supported implementation of a number of specific agreements, most notably the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement. Our support to the parties involved in that agreement has included:

  • Facilitating a workshop on human rights reporting, which led to the issuance of the first human rights reports by ING and Volksbank (Dutch) and of a second report by ABN AMRO.
  • Providing expert input and leading the drafting of paper capturing learning from the “enabling remedy” working group, which among other themes, included exploring the concept of a “remedy ecosystem.”
  • Supporting the “value chain mapping” working group by helping to shape its methodology and facilitating the process for the cocoa value chain mapping and part of the process for the palm oil value chain mapping.

In 2017, the Dutch Government recommitted itself to the process and is scheduled to undertake an evaluation in late 2019. The coalition agreement includes a provision to consider binding measures in case insufficient progress is deemed to be made. Shift looks forward to being a part of the evaluation process and discussions about what more is needed.

To learn more about the Sector Agreements, click here.

Shift and Former UN Human Rights Chief to Advise the International Olympic Committee on Developing a Human Rights Strategic Framework

New York, NY. Shift Co-Founder Rachel Davis has joined efforts with former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, to support the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in developing a strategic framework on human rights.

Rachel Davis and Prince Zeid will be working hand-in-hand with high-level IOC officials to conduct an in-depth assessment, informed by internal and external stakeholder consultation. Together, they will deliver high-level, strategic recommendations to the President and Executive Board of the IOC to set the foundation of a comprehensive human rights strategy and future work of the Human Rights Advisory Committee.

Since 2018, Shift has supported the IOC’s ongoing efforts to address human rights challenges, including those connected to bidding and candidature processes for the Olympic Games, and to the IOC’s role as the leader of the Olympic Movement.

Shift is driven by its commitment to play an objective, critical and transformative role in sport, and will continue to work side-by-side with other stakeholders to promote meaningful change in the sector.

To learn more, visit our dedicated page on Sports and Human Rights.

Tackling Modern Slavery through Financial Sector Leverage

This briefing paper was commissioned by the United Nations University, as part of the Liechtenstein Initiative for a Financial Sector Commission’s efforts to push beyond the boundaries of compliance towards creative financial sector action to prevent and address modern slavery and human trafficking.

Senior Advisor David Kovick and Managing Director, Rachel Davis provide observations and specific examples of what implementation of the UNGPs and related efforts by financial institutions looks like in practice today, including leading approaches, recurring challenges and immediate opportunities. 

Business and Human Rights in New Zealand

This series took place the week of August 8, 2016 as part of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission inaugural Business and Human Rights Forum

In collaboration with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, Shift is pleased to have delivered an education and awareness series about the Guiding Principles for government representatives, parliamentarians, investors, directors, CEOs, company practitioners and civil society representatives in New Zealand. The series took place in August 2016.

Topics that were addressed during the weeklong series in Wellington and Auckland include global uptake of the Guiding Principles, various governments’ actions on business and human rights including in the areas of procurement and disclosure, sharing of leading practices by investors in assessing human rights risks, the role of board directors in overseeing their company’s management of human rights, and exploration of specific business and human rights risks in the New Zealand context. The Australian Human Rights Commission also participated in the program as part of their collaboration with the Commission of New Zealand.

Independent Review and Recommendations for FIFA on Human Rights

Jump to: Press release from announcement of review and report, Dec. 2015  | Report | Press release on report, April 2016

Update: In March 2017 Shift Managing Director and Co-Founder Rachel Davis joined the newly established FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board. We see our participation in this Board as a significant opportunity to push for FIFA’s implementation of the April 2016 report For the Game. For the World. FIFA and Human Rights (link above), authored by John Ruggie with support from Shift. In our participation on this Board, we retain complete independence and do not accept any financial or other compensation for our time.

In December 2015, Shift Chair, Harvard professor and author of the Guiding Principles John Ruggie was asked by the world governing body of football FIFA to develop recommendations for embedding the Guiding Principles into FIFA’s policies and practices. In April 2016, those recommendations were published in an independent public report. The recommendations are based on a comprehensive review of human rights in the context of FIFA’s activities and events including consultations with internal and external stakeholders.

Ruggie was supported by a team from Shift and consulted with a range of internal and external stakeholder to undertake the review and develop his recommendations.

“FIFA’s global reach means that this initiative has the potential to make a difference where it matters most: in the daily lives of people,” said Ruggie. “I fully recognize that there will be challenges and complex change takes time. However, this has the potential to set the bar for other global sports organizations, and place respect for human rights front and center for a broad range of entities involved in global sporting events.”

“This is another important step in our ongoing reform process,” said acting FIFA President Issa Hayatou. “I am proud to see that FIFA is taking the lead among international sports organizations on such an important topic. Football and FIFA have an important role to play in this field; respect for human rights has to be at the core of our sport.”

This initiative builds on FIFA’s commitment to recognizing the relevance of the UN Guiding Principles to its operations, seeking technical support from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and announcing publicly its plans to make the Guiding Principles part of how it conducts its activities.

Guidance for UK Company Directors on Human Rights

This guidance was published in May 2016. Also see our Viewpoint on this topic and the announcement from the launch of the guidance.

Shift is pleased to have collaborated with the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission and Financial Reporting Council to develop guidance for board directors in the UK on human rights disclosure and performance. The guidance was launched in May 2016 — see our links above.

The project’s objectives were to improve UK-quoted company boards’ and investors’ understanding of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, as well as the quality of companies’ human rights reporting and disclosure.

The project began in September 2015 and had three phases. The first phase included consultations with board directors, investors, advisors to boards and civil society organizations to explore appropriate content for the guidance. This phase included events in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. In the second phase, the project team developed and refined drafts of the guidance for directors on human rights disclosure and performance with input from an expert advisory group, consisting of leading individuals from board, investor and board advisor (including legal) backgrounds. The guidance was launched at a London event in May 2016 featuring speakers from the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, Barclays, BT Group, Hermes EOS and Shift.

Building the Capacity of OECD National Contact Points

Over a period of several years, Shift supported several National Contact Point (NCP) systems to help them better fulfill their role as part of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Guidelines are closely aligned with the Guiding Principles when it comes to the expectations of businesses to respect human rights.

This work included:

  • Supporting the Danish National Contact Point — the Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct — as it undertook a peer review process. This built on Shift’s previous work supporting the Norwegian NCP as it underwent a similar review in early 2014.
  • In 2014, Shift also provided expert support to the OECD Secretariat to conduct a range of capacity building workshops and activities with NCPs. Shift partnered with the Consensus Building Institute in this work. Specific, we delivered:
    • A workshop to build the mediation skills and capacity of the Nordic group of NCPs in Oslo, Norway;
    • The first “horizontal peer review” session among the NCPs at their annual meeting in Paris in June 2014, focused on strengthening good practices and sharing learning on handling the initial assessment phase of specific instances;
    • A capacity building workshop with the Middle East and North African group of NCPs (Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia) in Rabat, Morocco;
    • A workshop to build the mediation skills and capacity of the Latin American group of NCPs in Santiago, Chile.

Embedding Respect for Human Rights in Key Company Functions

In 2014, Shift provided expert support to CSR Europe – the leading European business network for corporate social responsibility – to help its member companies understand how to effectively embed respect for human rights across their operations, and particularly in the key functions in human resources, procurement and risk. | See all our resources about embedding

Embedding can be thought of as the macro-level process of ensuring that a company’s responsibility to respect human rights is driven across the organization, into its business, values and culture. The Guiding Principles do not prescribe a single approach for how companies should embed their responsibility to respect; what is most effective will depend on an individual company’s context, including its corporate culture, types of business activities, and the positioning of different functions internally.

Shift has identified a number of critical elements for successful embedding, including:

  • Two-way communication between management and operational staff, including about challenges and how they can be addressed;
  • Setting appropriate performance goals for all staff to align incentives;
  • Cross-functional coordination and leadership;
  • Shared responsibility for outcomes, including those with responsibility for the activities or business relationships that may give rise to human rights risks;
  • Tailored operational guidance and continuous training;
  • Regular analysis of the company’s performance.

Shift’s support to CSR Europe involved research and webinars exploring these various elements of embedding, including identifying examples of how different companies have sought to embed the responsibility to respect in each of the three functions identified above. Shift also led a workshop for CSR Europe member companies on these issues in Brussels, hosted by Microsoft. The research and workshop discussions formed the basis of a public report by CSR Europe released in 2015. CSR Europe also drew on this collaboration in the production of their 2016 report Blueprint for Embedding Human Rights in Key Company Functions.