A Multi-Pronged Approach to Achieving One Vision

The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) is a firm believer in collaborative, intentional change. In an effort to alter laws and norms for the better in a sustainable way, it works with a wide variety of stakeholders – many who also occupy the civil society space – and seeks to elevate myriad perspectives in its work. This leads ICAR to engage in coalition work and partnerships that, while at times slow-going, affirm ICAR’s desire to make change that is long-lasting and meets the desires of many.

All of ICAR’s initiatives, research, and projects are intended to help realize a future in which we operate under a rights-based economy. Thus, its projects to achieve worker rights, tackle corporate-driven corruption, create mechanisms for corporate accountability, and reform supply chains, among others, all contribute to this holistic vision. To this end, ICAR has been effective in creating guidelines aligned with its ideals for various industries to meet and in inserting language into global declarations that uphold the ideal of better supply chains. (For example, it has created an Apparel and Footwear Supply Chain Transparency Pledge in which a multitude of companies have participated, and helped change global norms through advocating for rights-based language that was added to the G20 2017 Leaders’ Declaration.)

ICAR’s model requires intense, long-term collaboration.

Although this might not be the express intention, ICAR researches – and publishes its research – in a way that is wonderfully, and critically, accessible to the public. In its efforts to understand the future of work, to push for supply chains that respect and protect human and environmental rights, to build a better trade regime, and to ensure accountability for corporate wrongdoers, ICAR engages with stakeholders and releases its findings free of charge on its website. This gives regular people the ability to understand ICAR’s work and track its progress on various initiatives. Ultimately, this allows ICAR to “walk the talk” of transparency, demonstrating for others its commitments to knowledge and clarity, not just for those who it investigates, but also for itself. And, although building public interest and pressure in these areas is extremely challenging, ICAR’s public research and stances on different issues very clearly show its potential partners that it will work thoroughly and intensely on the issues to which it commits.

Another major element of ICAR’s strategy is adaptability. As ICAR works to hold corporations accountable to governments and to the public will, they must constantly employ new tactics in order to be successful in a changing landscape. The American – and global – political climate has been volatile over the past several years to say the least, with governance rapidly moving from being in favor of, to vehemently against, the world vision and mission for which ICAR fights. As such, the organization has adopted a wide array of strategies and initiatives to address various elements of corporate human rights violations, and even created a new position over the last year.

In order to keep up with rapid changes in the corporate accountability sphere, ICAR must work with a variety of actors and utilize a wide array of strategies to tackle big issues.

More specifically, ICAR has worked to confront the quickly evolving nature of labor and labor rights. To do so, it has expanded its efforts to realize workers rights, and the types of threats to labor rights that it examines. This includes investigating the ways in which automation and mechanization impacts human rights and recommendations for governments and industry to respond. Research on this topic culminated the release of the Robots and Rights report, which was launched at RightsCon in May 2018. This kind of information and research is vital for the public to understand the new challenges to human rights and to job attainment as automation increases. It can hopefully inform lawmakers and regulators as they address the impacts of these changes on the lives of workers.

Tackling corruption and corporate influence in politics are major elements of ICAR’s more recent initiatives, and are also ones in which ICAR has had to change its tactics in order to be effective. To take on these massive issues, especially during a time where the U.S. government seems more vulnerable to corporate power than at any point in recent memory, ICAR created a new position – Director of Advocacy and Campaigns – and hired my supervisor, Jana Morgan, to fill it. It did so after acknowledging that corporate capture was something so expansive that it required a new member of the team dedicated solely to this issue; otherwise this new area of work would spread the team too thin, or it would not get the attention it deserved. Jana is working to stop corporate-driven corruption through coalition work and through an effort to change the legislation that allows for it in the first place, which may take many years of dedicated and focused labor.

ICAR’s many initiatives are all aimed at adopting realistic tactics to achieve one lofty goal, while maintaining a collaborative spirit. ICAR’s efforts to work thoroughly, and to work with others, have resulted in powerful collective calls for the global community to do better and do right. The policies ICAR and its allies propose are consistently innovative and practical, shaping a better framework of global norms. Although ICAR’s work is slow, as it works toward long-term solutions, and it (along with civil society at large) is at odds with the current U.S. government, it works diligently and responsibly, with a strong track record of success.

Sara Evall is a T’19 Undergraduate. She has been a participant in Duke Engage Dublin, 2017 Duke Immerse, and was a Kenan Student Research Assistant. 

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