The Global Compact Network Switzerland comes to Business School Lausanne

The Global Compact Network Switzerland (GCNS) Sharing and Learning Business Lunch took place at Business School Lausanne (BSL) on Monday, the 14th March, 2016. Ron Popper, Head of Corporate Responsibility, ABB and Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, Business School Lausanne (BSL), the initiator of the BSL Platform for Business and Human Rights, were the guest speakers at this lunch.

The event attracted a lot of companies, civil society organizations, government and academics due, perhaps,  to of the importance of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,(UNGPs) the Responsible Business Initiative and the National Action Plan (NAP), all under discussion at UN and Swiss government level currently.

12841436_10208738342560649_8364008607202675320_o

Mayenfisch-Tobin set the stage with an explanation of the UNGPs and she showed a film explaining how companies could think about the salient Human Rights that might impact their companies.” The world is changing”, she explained, “and business is being impacted globally by legislation that is coming from everywhere”. She cited several different laws including the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, 2012,  the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, 2016, the UK Modern Slavery Act, 2015, the Dodd Frank Act, 2010 and the EU Directive on Non-financial reporting, 2014. This plethora of legislation shows how quickly the world is changing and how important it is that business everywhere be aware of these changes..

The audience heard about the efforts here in BSL to educate responsible leaders and also heard how important this is not only for BSL but for the business world also.

Ron Popper talked about the importance of business carrying out its due diligence and of “getting it right” with regards to human rights.  He acknowledged the challenges of doing business in this globalized world and answered many questions from the audience, who were clearly very involved and concerned by the topic to hand.

A fascinating lunch, a concerned audience and a burning issue- all in all, a great event!

Many thanks go to the staff of the Global Compact Network Switzerland for organizing this important meeting.

Author: Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor
marymayenfish

 

Business and Human rights – an NGO perspective

A visit from Danièle Gosteli Hauser, head of the Business and Human Rights group Amnesty International, Switzerland, gave an opportunity to Professor Marina Curran’s Masters class (and a few interested alumni and MBA students) to hear about the latest news in the field of corporate accountability.

A presentation of the debate taking place at UN and national level allowed our students to understand more clearly the importance of the discussion underway globally right now.  Amnesty International has led the way in the discussion on Business and Human Rights from the end of the 90s, the students discovered.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The work of John Ruggie, Special Rapporteur on Business and Human Rights, appointed by former UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, and the unanimous agreement of the UN Human Rights Council on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011 was very central to the presentation.  Students were given a narrative of the discussion on these issues from someone who participated in this step by step.

Who is responsible for Human Rights violations?

A short trailer of the movie “Blood in the Mobile” helped us understand the complexity of business for companies, the responsibility of everyone was highlighted.  Students in small groups gave their feedback following this horrifying film.  The importance of awareness building, the complexity of supply chain management and the difficulty of fighting against the status quo (people want to have the latest in technology) were all discussed. Gosteli Hauser pointed out that that all resources are being fought over today- a sad truth.  She further explained that Amnesty international, for this reason, concentrates a lot of time and research on the extractive industry.

In response to the question of who has responsibility for human rights violations, our students and participants clearly saw that everyone is responsible for what is happening in the world today- consumers, governments, companies and their suppliers, as well as investors, shareholders, intergovernmental organizations, international finance and academic institutions.  Gosteli Hauser gave an example of how companies could take responsibility with regards to their supply chains; they could begin by putting human rights clauses into their contracts with their suppliers – what better way to control your supply chain?

Voluntary Initiatives v Binding Legislation

A discussion on the many voluntary initiatives in place and their limited efficiency was followed by an explanation of the move toward more binding regulation by governments with regards to their corporations, wherever they might operate.

Here in Switzerland the Responsible Business Initiative,  and its intention of making Swiss and Swiss based companies legally obliged to incorporate the protection of human rights and the environment in all their business activities globally, was explained.  The aim of this initiative is to reinforce preventative measures to avoid abuses, through a mandatory due diligence.

The fact that Swiss companies are also liable for damage caused abroad by companies under their control (unless they can demonstrate that they carried out appropriate due diligence) is a new discussion.

New approaches in terms of international law, national law and the regulation of business have become a hot topic in corporate circles and also for governments and NGOs.

For more information on this topic please read more on the BSL blog on Business and Human Rights.

Author: Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor
marymayenfish

The BSL Platform for Business and Human Rights – On the Move!

BSL Forum 2015

I am delighted to announce an initiative that is very important for business schools and education everywhere. Last Saturday, Business School Lausanne encouraged by Mary Robinson, launched our Platform for Business and Human Rights here, here in Lausanne,  Switzerland.  What do we hope to achieve with this initiative, you might ask?

Leading the way forward
We would like to be an example for other business schools, law schools, engineering schools and other educational establishments to start thinking about how business and human rights fit together! How do we and how should we educate students to be ethical and responsible in today’s business world.

I believe that the first thing that needs to happen everywhere would be to ensure human rights training for all faculty, staff and students in educational organizations. As strange as it may seem, most people find it hard to articulate what human rights really are. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is something a lot of people have heard about but few people seem to have read or totally understood what it means. This needs to change!
Continue reading

Business and Human Rights and Switzerland – Towards Accountability!

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which were approved by the UN Human Rights Council unanimously in 2011 rests on three pillars: Countries duty to protect human rights, companies’ duty to respect human rights, the third pillar states that victims of human rights violations must have access to remedies.

It has long been clear that since governments signed and ratified human rights conventions they have a duty to ensure such rights are protected, the first pillar was in place but often not implemented.  The second pillar enunciated by John Ruggie, Special Representative on Business and Human Rights needed to be understood by business organizations – some of which have larger revenues than many nation states.  Now they know-  they must ensure this respect everywhere they operate. Not an easy task as some companies have supply chains that stretch across the world.
Continue reading

Business and Human Rights – a journey but not the final destination

A very important discussion about the challenges and risks to Swiss business moderated by Dr Klaus Leisinger took place in Geneva yesterday. Professor John Ruggie, the man who has brought the discussion on business and human rights to centre stage globally, told his attentive audience about this journey. Kofi Annan appointed Ruggie as special Representative on Business and Human Rights in 2005, and he was given a complex mandate.  He was to look at multinational activity and clarify some crucial issues; corporate responsibility, complicity and sphere of influence in particular.  Professor Ruggie was then to give recommendations as to how all of these issues should be handled or regulated globally. Not an easy task! Continue reading

Business says Human Rights are not negotiable!

The 3rd annual Forum on business and human rights is underway as I write.  About 2,000 people from business, governments and civil society have come to the UN in Geneva and the discussion is riveting!

Mo Ibrahim, the Chairperson of the Forum opened up the session with good advice to all participants. The UN Guiding Principles (UNGP) on business and human rights is a great achievement, said Dr Ibrahim but now “the time has come to deliver”!

Annual processes to measure progress, monitoring systems , publication of results are necessary now and  this needs to be carried out by an independent , credible organization funded by governments, business and civil society.   “Business has a role to play to support and uphold society and civil society must drive change”- we were off to a good start. Continue reading

Good for Business, Good for the Community – The Irish Vision for CSR and the Economy

The Irish National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility 2014-2016  is an extremely important step for the Irish business community both locally and globally according to the Irish Government. With this plan, they wish to ensure that Ireland “be recognized as a modern, fair, socially inclusive and equal society supported by a productive and prosperous economy” and they feel that “this objective can be supported by embedding CSR more widely in organisations.”

Ireland wishes to be “a Centre of Excellence for responsible and sustainable business practices through the adoption and implementation of best practices in CSR in enterprises and organisations.“ Continue reading

“Business and Human Rights – Negotiating for Ethics”. Really?

BSL & Amnesty International

Professor Bettina Palazzo’s Masters Class had the pleasure of hearing Danièle Gosteli Hauser, head of Business and Human Rights, Amnesty International, Switzerland, present in Business School Lausanne today. Continue reading

Human Rights are inalienable and indivisible!

I was happy to present my views on Business and Human Rights and corporate governance to Professor Marina Curran’s Masters Class on “Business Responsibility and Sustainability” this week.

For me it was important to tell students about the current debate on the importance of Human Rights to Business and in the Education of Business students – Financial Times: Human Rights should be on the MBA curriculum. This knowledge and understanding is so relevant and important for their future careers! Continue reading

No society functions without trust

Thoughts on the  2nd UN Business and Human Rights Forum, Geneva 2-4 December, 2013

Joseph Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001, made the keynote address to the audience of almost 2,000 people on Tuesday, 3rd December, 2013 at the 2nd UN Business and Human Rights Forum in Geneva. Governments, business, academia and civil society were present at this important 3-day gathering.  The reason for this Forum?  Continue reading