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  • andrea 6:45 am on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , development, Human Rights, , partnership, , ,   

    Think Big—business and the Global Goals 

    From January 2016, 17 new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) kick in, setting out a shared global vision for a prosperous, fair, sustainable economy out to 2030. Supported by 169 targets, these ‘global goals’ call for a step change in how we tackle major development challenges—from climate change and extreme poverty to inequality and injustice.

    This time around, the private sector is centre-stage in making change happen. It’s a fantastic opportunity for proactive companies to deliver real impact by working out how their core business can best support the goals. Solving global challenges is a powerful way to show purpose and create value for business and society. Companies aligned with the new agenda stand not only to gain reputational kudos, but are winning huge early mover advantage in tomorrow’s markets.


    Through our work with companies like Electrolux, Scania, Ericsson and RB to integrate sustainability into the business we’ve identified three promising areas where companies can take the lead:

    • Meeting unmet needs
    • Accelerating and scaling
    • Becoming net positive

    Our latest briefing paper describes how companies like Hindustan Unilever, Vodafone and Electrolux are increasing wellbeing, tackling poverty and combating climate change while building new markets, increasing spending power and gaining market share.

    Others—like Ericsson, KeringCarlsberg and Tetra Pak—are working collaboratively to achieve shared goals to scale and accelerate positive change by driving uptake of innovation, influencing the value chain, and growing infrastructure and capacity.

    Another way of supporting the goals is the pioneering efforts by companies like Kingfisher Group, Coca-Cola and NAB to decouple business growth from environmental impacts and become net positive. Changing what gets measured and how decisions are made is a crucial step on the sustainable value creation journey.

    To learn more from these inspiring examples of business action on the global goals, download our free briefing paper here.

    We’d love to learn from you too. Where do society’s needs and the focus of your company intersect? How can your business best benefit and drive progress on the global goals? Please share your story.

  • andrea 2:21 am on November 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Apple, Big Data, , Human Rights, ICT industry, Privacy, , , US government   

    Big Apple takes on Big Data: Apple champions consumers’ Right to Know 

    First Wikileaks, then Edward Snowdon now Apple? With its recent Report on Government Information Requests, 2013’s most valuable brand is turning the transparency tables – on governments.

    On November 5th, Apple Inc issued a short 7-page pdf report. Its focus: the growing number of requests the company is receiving from governments to disclose information on customer accounts and specific devices. Covering the period January 1st-June 30th 2013, the report is Apple’s first in an industry increasingly in the spotlight over privacy and personal data issues following global uproar over data mining.

    apple_logo“We believe,” Apple writes, “that our customers have a right to understand how their personal information is handled, and we consider it our responsibility to provide them with the best privacy protections available.”

    The report is interesting in two regards. First, because it puts customer interests front and centre – drawing attention to the way personal data is used by third parties without consent. In the first half of this year alone, Apple received 719 requests from countries as diverse as Belarus and Brazil. With the growing trend towards data retention legislation, this is an issue that isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

    Second is the way Apple uses the report to take a strong advocacy stand against US government restrictions that prevent it disclosing details of these requests. The restrictions’ impact is clear from the first of the report’s two charts, where the US is both the country with the highest number of information requests and the only country for which exact figures cannot be given, since Apple is obliged to print a consolidated range in increments of 1000. Apple doesn’t mince its words on the US stance: “We strongly oppose this gag order [and have] made the case for relief from these restrictions in meetings and discussions with the White House, the US Attorney General, congressional leaders and the courts.”

    After years of companies being in the firing line of demands for greater transparency, this time it’s the turn of the state. Rather than go the legal route, Apple hopes to change US policy through dialogue and advocacy; “We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent.”

    With over 700m IOS devices in the market, striking the right balance between matters of national security and crime prevention on the one hand, and personal freedom and human rights on the other is a huge societal challenge. Some great suggestions include allowing personal data to be collected – but in  an encrypted form – which authorities could access via a ‘digital search warrant’ if the need arose.

    By publishing this report, Apple takes a first step towards finding a better balance.

  • Amy 2:55 pm on December 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Burma, , Human Rights, Myanmar   

    The human rights dilemma 


    The responsibility of business to respect human rights has never been more relevant.  Yet many companies still lack an approach that is sufficiently transparent and rigorous to meet this obligation.

    In our strategy and communications work for companies, we find that human rights is an issue fraught with dilemmas and that managing it well is complex. Yet companies need to have their eyes wide open when addressing their human rights obligations—not only in their own operations, but also in their supply chains. Myanmar (Burma) is a case in point. With the government’s recent reformist moves many companies are rushing to renew business with Myanmar, but caution is still recommended  in these early days. The country still ranks no. 6 on the newly released Human Rights Risk Atlas 2013. When business decisions and activities that impact human rights are executed poorly, the price can be high, like appearing on this undesirable list. Fortunately, there are tools on hand to provide guidance. Chief among them is the new Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Guiding Principles set a framework for business and human rights that delineates the government duty to protect human rights and the business responsibility to respect human rights. Many companies are now integrating the Guiding Principles into their human rights strategy.

    In working with our clients on the complex issue of human rights, we make some key recommendations, including:

    Do your homework: Conducting proper due diligence of operations worldwide is essential—including the supply chain and  new acquisitions, with a laser focus on high-risk countries.

    Inform and educate: Employees are on the front line of meeting a company’s human rights obligations. Too often, they lack the guidance they need to make the right decisions. Training and educating employees on human rights is paramount.

    Grasp the opportunities: The human rights terrain is dotted not just with risk but also opportunity for companies to use their core business to further human rights.

    Be open and honest: A defensive approach will always backfire. Transparency about how a company handles human rights and openness about difficult issues that arise go a long way towards inspiring trust.

    Engage in dialogue: The business obligation to respect human rights is best served when companies engage in dialogue to find solutions to complex challenges—within or across industries, with human rights experts, governmental bodies and NGOs.

    The business-human rights dilemma won’t get any easier or less complex. Companies that invest in a thorough, consistent and transparent strategy while acknowledging they don’t have all the answers offers the most credibility.















  • Astrid von Schmeling 11:39 pm on May 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Human Rights, investors, Lundin, oil, Sudan   

    It’ll be my way or the highway 

    Trust us or sell your shares.” Or, in other words, ‘it’ll be my way, or the highway’.

    That’s how Lundin’s CEO Ashley Heppenstall recently responded to ever-increasing pressure to get to the bottom of the petroleum company’s human rights impacts during prospecting in southern Sudan between 1997 and 2003.

    Though the Swedish oil company insists that it has neither caused nor contributed to the atrocities that were ongoing there through its activities, NGOs including the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch beg to differ.

    Allegations made by ECOS connects Lundin to serious negligence related to the death of thousands of civilians and when almost 200,000 people were driven from their homes because the Sudanese government wanted to take control of oilfield Block 5A. Lundin Oil owned prospecting rights in the area.

    Human Rights Watch’s 2003 report “Oil, Sudan and Human Rights” refers to Lundin Oil as a key player, stating that they, together with other oil companies, ignored Sudanese government practices used to clear land for the companies’ activities. It concluded that Lundin has benefitted from the government’s continued abuses of human rights.

    With these reports in mind, a Swedish prosecutor is currently investigating Lundin’s involvement. So the jury is still out on the degree Lundin should be deemed responsible for what was going on in Sudan.

    Everything came to a head during the company’s AGM on May 10, when some Scandinavian institutional investors requested that Lundin pull together an independent inquiry on its human rights impacts in Sudan. Lundin claims that this process would get in the way of the Swedish inquiry, and rejected the suggestion outright.

    Some observers reject allegations of the negative role Lundin played in Sudan.

    The Lundin board claims to be misunderstood and Heppenstall’s challenge is a reflection of his frustration. Though the CEO recanted his words after a storm of protests – the comment is lingering in my mind because it says a lot about how the company perceives the role of investors and how it chooses to communicate with them.

    After a tumultuous discussion, an unexpected 22% of their shareholders voted to establish an independent inquiry into Lundin’s operations in Sudan. Now, the Lundin family is running a company whose interests are split to its core.

    Although the Lundin case has as many layers as an onion, there are some key take-aways. And it all comes down to Ruggie.

    When doing business, you can’t turn a blind eye to the social and political contexts of your operations. This means that every company has the responsibility to avoid causing or contributing to negative impacts through its own activities and to address each impact when they occur. In a case like this one, a transparent human rights impact assessment is the only credible way to instill trust in a company’s approach.

    What’s more, it is the responsibility of every company to meet the expectations of its investors, including interested parties. Because rather than a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude, building trust rides on a two way street, Mr. Heppenstall.

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