Monday, September 23, 2013

Conference: "Business and Human Rights: Moving Forward, Looking Back"

On September 23-24, 2013, the University of West Virgina College of Law hosts a marvelous conference, "Business and Human Rights: Moving Forward, Looking Back."

The conference will examine the United Nations’ recent work on business and human rights issues, an area that has grown substantially in the last ten years. Highlights of the subject’s growth include the United Nations’ establishment of a Working Group on Business and Human Rights and its adoption of the Guiding Principles for business and human rights. Participants will use these two major events as a focal point for discussing the roles that corporations, civil society, and states can all play in advancing the cause of human rights. (Conference website)

The conference is supported by the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights (letter of support HERE).  This post includes the conference agenda, participants, and panelists and topics, and a Business and Human Rights Survey.  

Facilitated by Roger D. Branigin
Executive Director
The Global Corporate Community of Practice for Business & Human Rights

Session One
An Introduction to Human Rights Risk Management

8:00 – 8:45 a.m. Continental Breakfast and Registration
8:45 – 9:00 a.m. Welcoming Remarks: WVU President James P. Clements, Ph.D.
9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Overview of maturing relationship between business and human rights
9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Spotlight on Small and Medium Enterprises: Trends, Challenges, Progress and Lessons Learned from West Virginia, Jena Martin
10:30-10:45 a.m. Break
10:45-11:30 a.m. Human rights due diligence (HRDD)
11:30 a.m-12:30 p.m. Survey of current human rights risk management tools and methods
12:30-2:00 p.m. Lunch Break – Remarks regarding ground rules, Jena Martin
Session Two
Facilitated Workshops for Managers and Practitioners

2:00-4:00 p.m. Workshop #1: Definition of KPIs and Use of Risk Registers

This workshop will focus on the selection of key performance indicators (KPIs) for identifying human rights risks and company impacts. Attention will be paid to risk definition and correlation, the benefits and potential pitfalls of risk registers, root cause analysis, and metrics of corporate performance.

Facilitators: Roger Branigin, Sandra Atler

2:00-4:00 p.m. Workshop #2: External stakeholders

One key difference between traditional financial or transactional due diligence and human rights due diligence is the emphasis on stakeholder engagement. The materiality of human rights impacts must be gauged from the perspective of rights-holders, not just the company and its traditional constituencies of investors, employees, and lenders. This session will address the difficulties that can arise in applying standards of materiality to external stakeholder impacts and in satisfying emerging reporting requirements.

Facilitators: Brian Lowry, Jena Martin, Ursula Wynhoven

2:00-4:00 p.m. Workshop #3: Small- and Medium Enterprises

One popular misconception is that risk management systems must be heavily resourced and involve substantial data collection before they can assist companies in identifying, prioritizing, and mitigating risk. In fact, methods and tools that entail little additional cost or administrative burden can be very effective in improving SME management of risk, including human rights risk. This workshop will explore some of the unique human rights challenges faced by SMEs and offer practical guidance for such firms on developing and implementing human rights risk management systems.

Facilitators: Sarah Labowitz, Ken Perdue

4:00-4:15 p.m. Quick Re-Cap

4:15 – 6:00 Reception and Presentation by Student Poster Finalists (See Call for Papers for further details)

7:30 p.m. “Festival of Ideas Keynote Speaker: Bill Richardson, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations”:


8:30 – 9:00 a.m Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00 – 9:15 a.m. University Welcome and Opening Remarks
9:15 – 10:15 a.m. Re-caps and Reports from Day One Facilitators
10:15 – 10:30 a.m. Break
10:30 – 11:45 a.m. Panel 1 – The History of Business and Human Rights James Friedberg, Andrew Friedman, Erika George, Patricia Illingworth, Atabong Tamo

Moderator: Bradley Wilson

11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Break
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Lunchtime Panel) Business and Human Rights: Outlining a Governmental and Regulatory Perspective. Amaka Okany, Rachel Rigby, Alan Krill

Moderator: Karen Bravo

1:00 – 1:15 p.m. Quick Break
1:15 – 3:30 p.m. Bringing it All Together: A Moderated Discussion George Brenkert, Jernej Letnar Cernic, Lisa Laplante, Ben Love, Blair Kanis, Nyakundi Michieka, Meredith Miller, Justine Nolan, Ashton Phillips, Humberto Cantu Rivera, Astrid Sanders, Prabhakar Singh

Moderator: Jena Martin

Commentators: Joshua Fershee, Angela Cornell, Alison Peck, Anne Marie Lofaso, Faith Stevelman, Karen Bravo, Jernej Cernic, Marcia Narine, Michael Addo, Greg Bowman, Matt Titolo

3:30 – 3:45 p.m. Break
3:45 – 5:15 p.m. Final Panel: The Framework Larry Catá Backer, Sarah Labowitz, Marcia Narine, Alexandra Popov, Faith Stevelman

Moderator: Amol Mehra

5:15 – 5:45 p.m. Closing Remarks from Dr. Michael Addo, UN Working Group for Business and Human Rights



Business & Human Rights 2013 Conference participants, alphabetical order.

Michael Addo – University of Exeter, Member of the U.N.’s Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Sandra Atler
Larry Catá Backer – Dickinson School of Law, Penn State
Roger Branigin – The Global Community of Practice for Business and Human Rights
Karen Bravo – Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
George Brenkert – Georgetown Business School
Jernej Cernic – Graduate School of Government and European Studies
Angela Cornell – Cornell Law School
andré douglas pond cummings – Indiana Tech Law School
Jonathan Drimmer – Georgetown Law
Jim Friedberg – West Virginia University College of Law
Andrew Friedman – Think Africa Press
Erika George – University of Utah
Patricia Illingworth – Northeastern Law
Blair Kanis – Kutak Rock LLP/Denver
Alan Krill – U.S. Department of State
Sarah Labowitz – NYU Business School
Lisa Laplante – University of Connecticut School of Law
Ben Love – Fresh Fields Bruckhaus Deringer, LLP
Brian Lowry – Monsanto
Amol Mehra – International Corporate Accountability Roundtable
Nyakundi Michieka – WVU Resource Management
Meredith Miller – Touro Law Center
Marcia Narine – St. Thomas University, School of Law
Justine Nolan – University of New South Wales
Nwamaka Okany – Amsterdam Center for Int’l Law
Kenny Perdue – West Virginia AFL-CIO
Ashton Phillips – George Washington Law
Alexandra Popov – former legal assistant (defense) to Liberian president Charles Taylor
Rachel Rigby – U.S. Department of Labor
Humberto Cantu Rivera – Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Project
Astrid Sanders – Birmingham Law School
Prabhakar Singh – National University of Singapore
Faith Stevelman – University of Washington Law School
Atabong Tamo – Universiteit Antwerpen
Bradley Wilson – WVU Geography
Ursula Wynhoven – UN Global Compact Office
Participant TBA – Procter & Gamble

Panelists & Topics - September 24
First Panel: The History of Business and Human Rights

Examining the work of NGOs and human rights advocates at bringing the issue to international spotlight. Potential topics include the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines and the Sullivan Principles.
James Friedberg: Boycotting Israel – Negotiating the Intersection of Trade Law and Human Rights
Andrew Friedman: Constructive Engagement in Democratization’s Fourth Wave—What can companies do in states they cannot leave?
Erika George: Incorporating Rights—Empire, Global Enterprise and Global Justice
Patricia Illingworth: Global Need—Rethinking Business Norms
Atabong Tamo: Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives as Regulatory Alternatives in the Business and Human Rights Debate—Lessons from the Kimberley Process and Conflict Diamonds’
Lunchtime Panel—Business and Human Rights: Outlining a Governmental and Regulatory Perspective.
Amaka Okany: State Responsibility and the State-Business Nexus under the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights
Representatives from US Department of State and Department of Labor have also been confirmed.
Second Panel: Bringing it All Together: A Moderated Discussion
Bringing together experts from a disparate number of fields, such as labor, trade, investment, and corporate social responsibility. The aim is to spotlight the impacts a business and human rights agenda has on different disciplines.
George G. Brenkert: Business and the Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
Jernej Letnar Cernic: Corporations and Human Rights: Towards a Bottom-Up Approach
Jonathan Drimmer and Lisa Laplante: Five-Part Framework for Addressing the Underlying causes of the Rana Plaza Collapse in the context of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights
Blair Kanis: Using Contracts to Implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Ben Love: Investor Responsibility in Investment Treaty Arbitration (Investment)
Nyakundi Michieka, Avoiding the Resource Curse in Kenya
Meredith R. Miller : Global Supplier Codes of Conduct—Accountability through transparency in private ordering (Labor)
Justine Nolan: The Corporate Responsibility to Respect and the Chasm between What a Company Should Do and what it will do. How to bridge the gap? All eyes on Asia.
Ashton Phillips: Transnational Businesses, the Human Right to Safe Working Conditions, and the Bangladeshi Factory Collapse—Recommendations for the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Humberto Fernando Cantu-Rivera: Recent Steps in the European Union Regarding the Implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights—From Regional Action to National Implementation
Astrid Sanders: The Impact of the ‘Ruggie Framework’ and UN Guiding Principles on Transnational Human Rights Litigation
Final Panel: The Framework
An examination of what principles or philosophies should guide the business and human rights agenda from all pillars of the Respect Framework. The panel would also focus on all three segments that should be represented in the debate: states, corporations, and civil society.
Larry Cata Backer: Catalyzing Strategic Litigation to Promote International Standards for Human Rights Corporate Social Responsibility Worldwide Through the U.N. Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
Sarah Labowitz: A New Way of Doing Business: The Case of Bangladesh
Marcia Narine: Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights—why soft-law governance won’t change the behavior of US-based corporations and what will
Alexandra Popov: The Impact of the UN Guiding Principles


Attention Owners/Operators of
Small and Medium Businesses in West Virginia

We would like to invite you to participate in an anonymous survey that will contribute to WVU’s upcoming conference, Business and Human Rights: Moving Forward, Looking Back.
B&HR 2013 Survey

A very important part of this conference focuses on understanding how human development concepts are understood by small and medium businesses (SMEs—250 or fewer employees) in West Virginia. We believe that there are in fact many SMEs who are aiding in the development of human rights, but are doing so under a different label (i.e., worker safety, and consumer protection). Your participation in this survey allows WVU to be in the forefront of the conversation in developing best practices for businesses in this area.

We would really appreciate it if you would take a moment to respond. Each question is completely optional and the survey itself is anonymous. We do not anticipate that it will take more than five minutes, but the information you provide is invaluable.
Results of the survey will be discussed at the conference on September 23rd and 24th, 2013, in Morgantown, WV. We would love for you to attend this event.

For more information, please contact Professor Jena Martin at
Read Prof. Martin’s The Business of Human Rights blog:

Jena Martin Reported the following at the conference:

Methodology: developing the survey was based on the E.U. Commission's survey on small and medium size business. IRB approval was necessary. They then distributed the survey to West Virginia business through contacts within the state. The key was to generate interest. They found that social media was useful to "get the word out". Received a lot of informal and off the record feedback about reasons for reluctance to complete survey. Anecdotally, corporations were quite reluctant to disclose data because there may be trade secrets revealed or that the information will be used to help competitors. In West Virginia there was another layer--human rights is a relatively incomprehensible concept. That is the language of human rights is foreign to West Virginia where human rights are understood as labor health and safety or other rights naturalized within American political discourse. There was also some suspicion of the U.N. as either a global regulator or as a foreign agent. As a result initial very low response rate. About 28 out of less than 200. But this low response is not unique to West Virginia. The Working Group surveys to global enterprises and states yielded equivalently low responses. This resulted in a revised methodology and a projected second attempt. Sacrifice verification for the protections of anonymity.

The Survey: 30 questions all optional and all anonymous. Asked for distinct types of information grouped around awareness issues and structure and implementation issues. With the first the focus was on knowledge of human rights international soft law instruments. Human rights, though, was not defined for purposes of extracting responses. With the second they sought information about corporate structures for identifying and dealing with human rights issues, including human rights due diligence. But they did not ask if the companies had developed a code of conduct. Most returns were from professional services organizations. Extractive industries did not respond. The responses came from CEO, senior executives and corporate managers rather than lower level officials responding; query whether the CEO was actually responsible or her staff. With respect to awareness, businesses indicated substantial familiarity about the general term, but drops significantly when questions about specific human rights instruments are asked (e.g., Global Compact, U.N. General Principles, etc.). In part this reflects that unless one is immersed in the business and human rights world, in the absence of a specific case asserted against a business there is little practical need for the expenditure of resources for learning about this. This suggests that targeted soft law actions against key targets may increase familiarity. With respect to implementation, businesses noted as reasons for engaging the usual factors--efficiency, reputation, risk management, and inadvertent infractions by line managers. West Virginia's businesses centered their risk universe on safety issues, compliance with law, wage and hour rules, and discrimination. Many did not think they were dealing with any human rights issues. There was an inconsistency, then between understanding the cope of human rights and the rights based managerial changes in West Virginia that impacts human rights concerns in fact. Most companies also had no human rights based monitoring systems or reporting systems; no internal controls or external audits.

Take away points: (1) lack of awareness is a key barrier; (2) skepticism plays a key factor; (3) discomfort and anxiety in the face of human rights; (4) need to make the business case for human rights.

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