Bringing Out the Best in Business
BSR makes it clear that sustainability is good for business, and collaboration is the path to systemic change. In a recent webinar with members of the Human Rights Working Group, BSR experts and guests discussed legal buy-in and human rights policies. These policies can be critical in a world where human rights and environmental abuses are increasingly visible and customers and clients demand accountability and responsibility from the businesses they support. Governments and international NGOs also have expectations about which rights and ethical practices must be upheld, and businesses that violate these suffer the consequences of bad press and expensive lawsuits. In addition to keeping stakeholders happy, developing more sustainable business strategies can make a company more profitable and resilient in the long-term.
BSR also uses its business knowledge to engage its members by staying on the edge of the most relevant and timely topics in business, sustainability, and human rights. Some of BSR’s most recent blog posts and reports center on big issues such as big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology, analyzing the potential benefits for companies looking to leverage these technologies for sustainability, like increased efficiency and transparency in supply chains, while expressing caution over privacy violations and other human rights issues.
In addition to its business understanding and model, a key piece of BSR’s ability to make an impact is by encouraging collaboration and communication among its member organizations and clients. BSR’s collaborative initiatives bring together multiple companies or stakeholders to collaborate on a certain topic and establish standards around a commitment to an issue. This is particularly useful when legislative frameworks or local governments aren’t conducive to rapid and efficient change. Collaborative initiatives hold the power to achieve this systemic change because of the large influence their member companies exert when united. If multiple large companies and competitors in an industry come together, they can have a greater impact on their industry, region, and community.
For example, one project I’ve been able to contribute to is the creation of a three-year strategy for the Building Responsibly Initiative, a collaboration between six different construction and engineering companies to promote worker welfare in their supply chains. Especially in the Middle East, migrant worker welfare is complicated and can be undermined by dubious practices of recruitment agencies and subcontractors in a fiercely competitive market. A single company alone won’t be able to create systemic change but, by coming together, an entire sector of companies can have greater leverage and impact.
Another collaborative initiative that I’ve gotten insight into is the Human Rights Working Group and its efforts to help companies implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The group encourages companies and industries to look beyond the initial vision of the UN Guiding Principles to share best practices and experiences and to implement actionable items. Groups like this can be extremely transformative because they provide a space for shared dialogue and a framework for other businesses to follow in pursuit of better human rights practices.
BSR’s most powerful levers for impacting business practices and making an impact on the world are its combined understanding of business imperatives and sustainability expertise and its ability to connect and unite businesses in collaborative efforts to yield systemic change. Initiatives for sustainability and human rights can benefit everyone, including corporations. It only makes sense to undertake them together.