human rights & business (and a few other things)

Guardian Sustainable Business Quarterly Event

Last night I had the pleasure to participate to one of the Guardian Sustainable Business Quarterly events on “Business & human rights – Implementing principles and solving dilemmas”. The event started with a panel discussion between Hans Daems (Head of public affairs at Hitachi), Faris Natour (Human rights director at BSR), Susanne Stormer (Vice President of corporate sustainability at Novo Nordisk) and Ola-Jo Tandre (Director of corporate responsibility at Telenor). By and large it was a good, high-level discussion. While some of the things said made me shiver (like “Human rights is the new black”) the conversation was interesting in many ways, especially when the panelists moved beyond PR talk and explained where exactly their business may impact human rights, and the various ways they have attempted to address the issues. I particularly enjoyed Susanne Stormer’s straightforward style. One of the stories she shared was her discussion with one of their suppliers during which she asked them whether they had children working in their supply chain. Offended, the suppliers replied: “How dare you ask this to us? And by the way we don’t have the slightest idea about whether we do or no”. Typical, I guess!

After that we moved on to the roundtable discussion. I chaired a discussion on a “community relocation” business and human rights dilemma. My fellow panellists were professionals with a good mix of backgrounds and working in various sectors (banking; an extractive company; an ethical fashion company; a law firm; academia; a consultancy; a News company). It was really interesting to see how everyone approached the dilemma and suggested how the company facing this hypothetical dilemma should react. In the end we came up with 3 recommendations, all in line with the UN Guiding Principles.

It was a pleasant and informative evening, so thank you to The Guardian Sustainable Business for organising it and inviting me.

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