Shift’s FIs Circle

A carefully designed space for leading practitioners in the financial sector to discuss human rights challenges and co-create cutting-edge solutions that fit their unique reality

Financial institutions are uniquely positioned to advance business respect for human rights. Their products, services, clients and investment portfolios span all sectors and industries, enabling them to catalyze change by using their leverage to help move markets in the right direction. At the same time, this broad reach means they are often connected to an enormous range of human rights risks.

For practitioners in the financial sector, this presents significant challenges as well as opportunities. Yet, there are limited spaces available for them to analyze how the responsibility to respect human rights applies to their context and to discuss possible approaches to human rights due diligence together with others who are facing similar challenges, informed by external human rights expertise.

Shift’s Financial Institutions Practitioners Circle (FIs Circle) was carefully designed to fill that gap. It is a purposefully small network of practitioners from private banks and export credit agencies – led by Shift experts – to foster insightful conversations, co-create innovative approaches and ultimately advance leading practice across the financial sector.

The FIs Circle is not a membership organization with a secretariat, nor an industry grouping for policy advocacy. Rather, it is a space for practitioners to have frank discussions about implementing respect for human rights with peers who understand the challenges involved and want to contribute to shaping leading practice in the sector, guided by top human rights experts.

Watch this Video to Learn More

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS LEAD, ASHLEIGH OWENS, EXPLAINS HOW THE FIS CIRCLE CAME TO BE

Benefits of the Program

Why join Shift’s Financial Institutions Practitioners Circle

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Group Workshops and Discussions

FIs Circle participants join their peers across leading financial institutions in tailored workshops and in-depth discussions that explore shared challenges in implementing the corporate responsibility to respect in the FIs context.

Every year, the FIs Circle has three virtual peer learning workshops, facilitated by Shift human rights experts who bring their experience, knowledge and learnings from working with a variety of stakeholders on distinct challenges across the financial sector.

 

 

INTRODUCTORY “UNGPs AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS” SESSIONS

In addition to the peer-learning workshops, participants are invited to attend (and/or to send new team members or other colleagues) to bi-annual introductory sessions on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These sessions are uniquely tailored to the operations and value chain of the financial sector.

They offer an introduction to the UN Guiding Principles to participants from institutions who are diving into business and human rights for the first time.

 

 

EXPERT FACILITATION BY SHIFT

For almost a decade, Shift has worked directly with banks, export credit agencies and other financial institutions in developing solutions for a wide array of challenges. In parallel, we’ve collaborated with peer civil society organizations and have been closely involved in standard-setting processes in this space.

Consistent with our mission, Shift brings to the table the learnings we have gathered and the tools we have designed, and are developing, to explore together with FIs Circle participants.

Learn more about our work with financial institutions, their regulators and other stakeholders here.

 

 

CONTRIBUTE TO SHAPE LEADING PRACTICE

Shift is a mission-driven organization that seeks not only to support individual companies, but to advance leading practice across entire sectors and to embed the UN Guiding Principles in authoritative standards. In line with this, we are committed to using the knowledge that we build through programs like the Financial Institutions Practitioners Circle to develop and share public-facing outputs that can inform practice and push the boundaries of business behavior, while appropriately respecting confidentiality.

Explore our public resources here.

 

 

OPTION TO JOIN SHIFT’S BUSINESS LEARNING PROGRAM

In addition to the workshops, discussions and opportunities that are specific to the financial sector, Shift offers participants of the FIs Circle the option to join our flagship Business Learning Program, where companies receive tailored strategic and operational support on specific challenges that they face, and participate in cross-industry learning with leading companies from around the world.

Learn more about Shift’s Business Learning Program.


Criteria for Admission

WE ARE PURPOSELY SELECTIVE ABOUT WHO WE WORK WITH

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Shift’s FIs Circle is designed for institutions that have demonstrated organizational maturity to embed respect for human rights across their operations and are ready to take further action. Participants come from different regions of the world.

Prior to an organization joining the FIs Circle, we engage in an in-depth discussion to determine whether participation is the right fit for the organization and for the group, based on the financial institution’s human rights work and its commitment to sharing its experience and improving its performance.

At this stage the FIs Circle is only open to select participants from private banks and export credit agencies. This is to ensure that participants can take advantage of the opportunity to discuss challenges with peers that work in similar contexts and face analogous challenges and opportunities for positive impact.

Beyond the FIs Circle, Shift works bilaterally with a wide variety of financial institutions that are at an earlier stage in their human rights journey. You can learn more about the way we provide bespoke advisory support to financial institutions here, or contact us at info [at] shiftproject [dot] org to learn more.


Inquire about the FIs Circle

At the moment, Shift’s FIs Circle is open to invited practitioners from private banks and export credit agencies. Current participants include practitioners from ABN AMRO, ING, Wells Fargo and Citi Group, among others.

To learn more about Shift’s Financial Institutions Practitioners Circle contact us at info [at] shiftproject [dot] org. You can also visit our Financial Institutions page to learn about more ways in which we work with other financial institutions, including investors, national development finance institutions, standard setters and others.

Introducing Shift’s Financial Institutions Practitioners Circle

New York, NY

Shift, the leading center of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, is delighted to announce the launch of our Financial Institutions Practitioners Circle, a space carefully designed for a small number of leading practitioners from banks and export credit agencies (ECAs) to discuss common human rights challenges and co-create cutting-edge solutions that put people first.

The first generation of the FIs Circle will gather virtually for the first time in early March and will include a limited number of practitioners from institutions in the financial sector who have demonstrated a serious commitment to advancing their understanding and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles.

Discussion and learning in the FIs circle will be facilitated by experts from Shift, who will also contribute creative solutions that we have been fine-tuning in our one-on-one engagements with financial institutions. Together, through group workshops and discussions, practitioners will foster leading practice by sharing and co-creating approaches to putting the responsibility to respect human rights into practice in the FIs context.

Shift is committed to disseminating the learnings from this group for the benefit of a wider audience of FIs practitioners and other stakeholders.

LEARN MORE>

Participant selection

Shift is currently evaluating candidates for the first generation of the FIs Circle. Admissibility is determined through an in-depth discussion, based on where the organization is on their human rights journey and, regardless of its level of maturity, its commitment to sharing its experiences and improving performance.

To learn more about the FIs Circle, or to inquire about joining, please email communications [at] shiftproject [dot] org.

Introduction to the series

Increasingly, investors are becoming interested in understanding to what extent companies are respecting human rights, and whether their efforts are likely to improve the lives of affected people. A good place to start is by reading a company’s human rights disclosure. But company reports are often hard to analyze.  On the surface, many companies will seem to be doing the right thing. But, how can investors tell whether what they are reading is meaningful and in line with what the UN Guiding Principles expect? This collection of resources was designed by Shift to help investors apply a people-centered approach to gain deeper insights from company disclosure.

In each issue, we have selected a number of excerpts from different companies that have generally taken a forward position on business and human rights and are considered leaders in reporting in their sector. We provide a brief analysis of each excerpt, highlighting strengths in the insights it offers, and note some elements that could make it stronger.

In March 2020, Shift published the first two issues of the series:

ISSUE 1 – Engagement with Vulnerable Stakeholders

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This resource is meant to serve as a guide for investors and others in analyzing companies’ disclosure on their stakeholder engagement practices. The aim is to help readers identify potential strengths and gaps in the underlying performance of the company in engaging vulnerable groups.

This resource uses company reporting from Marks & Spencer, Best Buy, Teck, Adidas and Rio Tinto.

ISSUE 2 – Efforts to Tackle Gender-Based Impacts

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This resource uses excerpts from companies’ reporting on their efforts to tackle gender-based impacts.  In particular, it looks at whether a company’s disclosure indicates that it sees gender impacts as relevant for business; whether a company’s disclosure suggests it has real insights into women’s experience in the workplace; and whether a company’s disclosure suggests it is alert to other dimensions of gender-based discrimination.

ISSUE 3 – Risk Identification

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This resource  focuses on excerpts from company reporting on setting targets and tracking performance. Specifically, it examines whether the company only reports on issues it deems material to the business; if the only indicated external input for the human rights issues the company prioritizes is a generic survey; if a company’s list of material issues includes both individual human rights and a category of ‘human rights’; and whether human rights issues are listed in company disclosure without further explanation of how these relate to the business’s own operations and value chain.

Issue three uses company reporting from Total, Nestlé, ABN AMRO, Newmont and Pepsico.

ISSUE 4 – Taking Action on Systemic Human Rights Challenges

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This resource focuses on excerpts from company reporting on systemic human rights challenges. Specifically, it looks at whether the company positions itself solely as part of the solution to the human rights challenge concerned; whether the company only reports its membership in groups or collective initiatives that tackle certain systemic human rights risks without describing its engagement with these initiatives and how this contributes to change; and whether the company reports on any actions it has taken unilaterally to address its own potential involvement with that issue.

The fourth issue uses company reporting from H&M, ASOS, Mondelez, Anglo American and Microsoft.

ISSUE 5 – Examples of Targeted Action

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This resource focuses on examples from companies of targeted action. It delves into whether the company only reports generally on its process for identifying and addressing human rights impacts; whether the company reports on how the perspectives of affected stakeholders informed its understanding of the impact and its decisions on what action to take; and whether the company talks about engagement with suppliers or other business partners on human rights-related issues in terms of compliance.

This resource uses company reporting from ING, M&S, FMO, ASOS and Unilever.

ISSUE 6 – Setting Targets and Tracking Performance

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The final issue focuses on excerpts from company reporting on setting targets and tracking performance. It looks at whether the company’s targets set and track in reporting are limited to activities or outputs; whether the company follows up on the extent to which all of targets set in one reporting period were met in the next; and whether data on human rights performance is aggregated such that meaningful insights cannot be drawn from the disclosure.

This resource uses company reporting from Unilever, Nestlé, Teck, M&S and C&A.

Efforts to Tackle Gender-Based Impacts

Increasingly, investors are becoming interested in understanding to what extent companies are respecting human rights, and whether their efforts are likely to improve the lives of affected people. A good place to start is by reading a company’s human rights disclosure. But company reports are often hard to analyze.  On the surface, many companies will seem to be doing the right thing. But, how can investors tell whether what they are reading is meaningful and in line with what the UN Guiding Principles expect? This collection of resources was designed by Shift to help investors apply a people-centered approach to gain deeper insights from company disclosure.

In particular, this resource uses excerpts from companies’ reporting on their efforts to tackle gender-based impacts.  In particular, it looks at: 

  • Whether a company’s disclosure indicates that it sees gender impacts as relevant and important for its business;
  • Whether a company’s disclosure suggests it has real insight into women’s experience in the workplace;
  • Whether a company’s disclosure suggests it is alert to other dimensions of gender-based discrimination.

This may also be a useful tool for practitioners within businesses who want to improve how they report on these issues, and for other stakeholders who are interested in analyzing and assessing the quality of a company’s human rights disclosure.

Engagement with Vulnerable Stakeholders

Increasingly, investors are becoming interested in understanding to what extent companies are respecting human rights, and whether their efforts are likely to improve the lives of affected people. A good place to start is by reading a company’s human rights disclosure. But company reports are often hard to analyze.  On the surface, many companies will seem to be doing the right thing. But, how can investors tell whether what they are reading is meaningful and in line with what the UN Guiding Principles expect? This collection of resources was designed by Shift to help investors apply a people-centered approach to gain deeper insights from company disclosure.

In particular, this resource uses excerpts from companies’ reporting on their engagement with vulnerable stakeholders.  We have selected five excerpts from companies that have generally taken a forward position on business and human rights and are considered leaders in reporting within their sector. We provide a brief analysis of each excerpt highlighting strengths in the insights it offers and noting elements that could make it stronger.

This may also be a useful tool for practitioners within businesses who want to improve how they report on these issues, and for other stakeholders who are interested in analyzing and assessing the quality of a company’s human rights disclosure.

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. 

Supporting Norway’s Export Credit Agency on the Guiding Principles

“Shift has given us unique, expert insight and tools that have enabled us to pragmatically work toward our goal of effectively implementing the UN Guiding Principles.” 

Kamil Zabielski, Senior Social and Human Rights Specialist, GIEK

Shift is pleased to have worked closely with the Norwegian Export Credit Guarantee Agency (Garanti-instituttet for eksportkreditt-GIEK) (“GIEK”) to help it further align its approach to environmental and social due diligence with the Guiding Principles.

GIEK is a recognized leader among the OECD group of Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) in the development of policies and practices to manage environmental and human rights impacts. GIEK was among the first ECAs to adopt an explicit environmental and human rights policy and associated due diligence procedure.

Shift provided expert support to GIEK in 2013 in the development of these policies. In 2014, Shift worked with GIEK to explore how it could strengthen its stakeholder engagement and grievance pathways with regard to the transactions it supports.

Also seeour work with various financial institutions on the Guiding Principles | suppport to the Norwegian OECD National Contact Point

Collaborating With the IFC on Guidance for High Risk Contexts

Jump toOverview of our work with financial institutions on the Guiding Principles | Our report on human rights due diligence in high risk circumstances

In alignment with the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) revised Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability, the IFC has been exploring the development good practice guidance for its private sector clients on the issue of human rights due diligence in high risk circumstances. Shift provided expert input to the IFC in 2013 on the content of potential guidance.

The Performance Standards’ requirements regarding the environmental and social due diligence processes that all IFC-financed projects must have in place are robust; however, the Performance Standards themselves recognize that, in certain high risk circumstances, it may be appropriate for companies to complement these processes with specific human rights due diligence (see Performance Standard 1, footnote 12). This raises two key framing questions that any guidance on this issue should address:

  1. Under what circumstances might specific human rights due diligence be appropriate;
  2. What should human rights due diligence entail in such high risk circumstances?

Any IFC guidance on these questions would need to be practical, relevant and grounded in the challenging realities facing companies that operate in complex, high-risk contexts. It should also build upon existing resources for companies on these issues, and seek to ensure a convergence of guidance wherever appropriate.

While the immediate audience for good practice guidance issued by the IFC is IFC client companies, the impact of the Performance Standards extends well beyond IFC-financed projects – providing a global benchmark referenced by numerous public and private financial institutions, as well as informing the policies and practices of many companies operating in emerging markets.

This collaboration informed a report that we published in 2015 on human rights due diligence in high risk circumstances.

Advising the Peruvian Financial Regulator on Improved Corporate Management of Social Conflict

Also see: Overview of our work with financial institutions on implementation of the Guiding Principles | Our report on the cost of corporate-community conflict

From 2012-2015, Shift was pleased to support the Superintendency of Banks, Insurers and Private Pension Funds (SBS) in Peru in the development and implementation of a new regulation to strengthen due diligence in the Peruvian financial sector. The regulation is available in Spanish (official) and English (unofficial) here.

Shift provided advisory support to the SBS regarding the development of a new regulation aimed at mitigating social conflict related to large investment projects in Peru. This initiative responded to the evidence that such conflict can increase credit risk and reduce the creditworthiness of projects and/or their primary suppliers that are directly or indirectly affected by social conflicts. | Jump to our report on the cost of conflict in the extractives sector

In recent years there has been considerable social conflict in Peru around major commercial projects, particularly in the extractive industries and forestry. This has in part resulted from local communities’ concerns about the impacts these projects may have on their livelihoods, welfare and human rights. These conflicts are seen to have implications for the credit risk of individual Peruvian banks, the stability of the Peruvian financial system, and the reputation of Peru as an investment location.

Shift worked with the SBS to look at how the elements of due diligence set out in the Guiding Principles could provide a useful reference point for the planned regulation. This advice focused on the role of effective community dialogue and engagement and grievance handling processes in ensuring that due diligence processes are effective in mitigating risks of social conflict.

The SBS has now issued the new regulation, which requires banks to pursue social and environmental risk management in relation to certain advisory services and loans for particular projects in Peru, including natural resource extraction projects. While the new regulation is framed in terms of social and environmental due diligence in general and emphasizes reduction of systemic risk, its greatest innovation lies in the human rights lens it brings to the requirements of banks, and in turn of their clients, including the assessment of the quality of client companies’ processes for engaging directly with potentially impacted communities and providing channels for them to raise grievances. In this regard, it reflects important features of human rights due diligence emphasized in the Guiding Principles.

During the development of the regulation, Shift was pleased to provide additional support to the SBS including delivering collaborative capacity building workshops for key SBS staff, joint with the Association of Banking Supervisors of the Americas (ASBA), as well as training for representatives from Peruvian banks that are subject to the new regulation.