Events and insight for sustainability

How business can better manage human rights risks

1st November 2017
2nd November 2017

Timeslots are provisional and exact timings may change


Opening address


Is human rights risk REALLY anything more than a reputational risk?

What does it take to make companies act on human rights?

Previously, companies have viewed human rights as a reputational risk – if abuses are uncovered, the repercussions for the company’s reputation have been at the forefront. Is that still the case? Does it take a scandal to make companies act?

In balance, a number of companies now look beyond the immediate reputational risk, at the cost savings and efficiencies that can be made across the board when implementing an effective human rights policy.

In this first session, we will assess the current state of human rights in business, and uncover what the real drivers are for pushing through the human rights agenda in your organisation.


Civil society expectations: where do you stand now and where do you need to be in five years?

The strength and interconnected nature of business in every day society is ever more present, where of the world’s 100 largest economies, 69 are companies rather than states, and global value chains make up 80% of world trade.

The influence of business filters through the everyday lives of civil society in more ways than we know, so what responsibility does that bestow upon companies?

NGO campaigns can spark new trends in the focus of sustainability teams in companies around the world, but to what extent do they set your agenda? How can you keep ahead of these campaigns? And ultimately, where does business need to be to meet expectations regarding the protection of our everyday rights?

Asking a range of civil society organisations, we’ll dive into these questions and more in this one-hour plenary session.


Coffee break


Case study: engaging procurement – practical guidance on how to communicate effectively and align interests

A common barrier to embedding human rights policy throughout supply chains is the perceived additional cost that will fall on the procurement department. Inconsistencies between the objectives of managers in procurement roles versus sustainability and corporate responsibility are commonplace.

However, more companies are seeing increasing synergies between internal departments with better supplier engagement, long-term planning and social considerations that are integrated from the outset.

Using a case study approach, this session will explore a corporate example of where these inconsistencies have been overcome, to ensure that procurement is engaged on human rights issues. With a representative from each side of the fence, we’ll look at what works, what doesn’t, and why.




Breakout 1: Measuring your mark – what makes a good impact assessment, and what are the limitations?

More and more companies are looking to measure, monitor and quantify the impact of their sustainability initiatives.

These programmes are a big investment, and there is a growing need to both understand and measure the impact of programmes.

Practically, how do you actually calculate and measure social impact?

Is it realistic – and even necessary – to place a (financial) value on the impact of your human rights work?

And with a growth in demand for good, useful data, how do you get this from your results?

Breakout 2: The rise of automation in manufacturing: what does it mean for the future of human rights and business?

Advances in technology are changing the way we interact and work with each other every day. Developments are being felt in supply chains around the world, as automation is set to alter the manufacturing industry almost entirely.

The ILO warns us that factories employing millions of workers, many in developing countries, will be replaced with models designed for automated manufacturing.

Furthermore, automated systems will see production increasingly ‘on-demand’.

In this session we’ll explore two parts:

i) what is the responsibility of the brand when a factory closes?

ii) how does the on-demand system impact the rights of workers?

Breakout 3: Crisis scenario: you’ve found child labour – what now?

Child labour continues to exist on a massive scale, all over the world. The majority of cases are found at the remote end of a company’s supply chain, often where the role of a child varies culturally, making an already complex issue even more sensitive.

This scenario-based session will see speakers put in a fictional situation where child labour has been found, and they will guide us through the steps their company would take to respond to this issue in the short, mid and long term.


Breakout 1: Reporting workshop: what’s important, and what’s not? How to make your reports more meaningful

The task of communicating and reporting on the work business is doing to improve human rights standards is extremely important. Assuming you have the good, useful data from your impact assessments (see above), companies stand to truly benefit from better communication, encouraging greater transparency across the board.

However, sustainability managers are often overwhelmed with too much information, trying to figure out how to condense a year’s worth of data into 25 pages.

In this session, we’ll take a practical look at how your report can evolve with new data, and how to highlight the key work you are doing.

Breakout 2: The future of globalisation: localisation? The direct and indirect impacts of on-shoring on supply chains

In the current political state, the future of globalisation is at risk, with warnings of a fall in cross-border investment and increased localisation of trade and policy. With this, a number of companies are now on-shoring their supply chain, bringing back stages of production to Europe and the UK.

In this session we’ll explore the implications for workers in countries where manufacturing is moving from, and what measures are being put in place to protect rights at home.

Breakout 3: Worker engagement 101: access to grievance mechanisms, but what about access to remedy?

There are an increasing number of methods by which you can better engage with workers in the supply chain, with services that help you manage, mitigate and remedy workplace risks.

The mechanisms through which workers can report abuses is truly important, but with that systems for remediation need to be present.

In this practical session, we’ll uncover the best mechanisms out there and the ones that you can scale.


Coffee break


Supply chain mapping – where to start, what to look for and the technologies to help you uncover risks beyond tier one

More and more, mapping out supply chains is becoming a requirement of companies as it provides increased certainty around where a product has come from, the stages that have gone into its production, and who has made it.

The advantages are numerous, with reduced risk, better products, and improved transparency. Simple right?

But mapping a global supply chain can be an extremely costly, time consuming and daunting task.

This session takes a practical look at where to start initially, and how to uncover the murky web beyond tier one.

Some of the questions we’ll be asking include:

  • Is 100% traceability realistic? And is it worth it?
  • How to establish – and prioritise – high risk areas?
  • What’s the latest technology that can help us?


Are data privacy and cyber risk the new human rights threats?

Privacy is a hot topic, and with the enormous amount of data that companies own, it can be an overwhelming, but necessary, task to keep up with identifying, assessing and managing privacy risks internally and throughout the supply chain.

Concerns have developed around how data is stored, used and shared. Furthermore, as a rapidly evolving threat, business is still catching up with human rights risks around personal data privacy and the associated cyber risk. With increasing attacks, hackers are gaining access to sensitive information that the public shares with corporations.

In this final session, we’ll dig deep into data and determine the role of CSR departments in developing, implementing and monitoring business practices for responsible customer data use.


Drinks reception


Modern slavery: two years on, how do you keep up the momentum internally?

There is no doubt that the UK Modern Slavery Act has been ground-breaking, weaving the path for over 1800 companies to release statements on commitments to eradicate modern slavery from supply chains. The demand for transparency from government has sparked substantial discussion amongst business, government and civil society, elevating the issue to board level.

However, with two years since the first statements, will companies become fatigued with another statement to write and sign off? How do we avoid companies falling behind once the initial momentum of the legislation dissipates?

In this session, we will explore how best to keep up the momentum the Act has surfaced, so that eradicating modern slavery remains a top priority for the board and business as a whole.


Emerging legislation: how does the changing legal environment affect your business, and what are the implications for your supply chain?

The tide of human rights legislation continues to roll. The UN recently released new recommendations on business and human rights, around due diligence requirements of business, throughout their supply chains. In addition, the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has suggested the UK government consider creating a new offence when corporates fail to prevent human rights abuses. The European Commission has also released new guidance on non-financial reporting, which comes from an EU directive covering corporate due diligence processes on all human rights issues.

With the continuing flow of new and evolving legislation, companies need to know how to keep ahead. In this session, we will discuss how your business is affected, and how rules around disclosure and legal liability impact your operations.


Coffee break


Breakouts: industry case studies

In this set of breakouts, we will take a case study approach to different industries where human rights risks are high. In a more intimate setup, speakers will be able to speak candidly about their experience, from discovering human rights abuses, through to any remediation steps that have taken place.

The sectors we will delve into are:

  • food and beverage
  • hospitality
  • construction
  • apparel
  • finance




Case study: the role of collaboration in implementing a living wage

With a rise in global concern around low wages, the casualisation of labour, and widening wage gaps, there is increasing demand for workers to earn a living wage.

Raising wages to ‘living’ standard is difficult for any one brand to implement, but if done collaboratively, relevant stakeholders including brands, retailers, manufacturers and trade unions, can help develop a system that can be scaled sustainably, industry-wide.

In the apparel industry, ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) has set out to improve wages through collective bargaining, better manufacturing standards and responsible purchasing practices.

As an example of collaboration by trade unions, government and business, how is the initiative fairing? Using this example, we’ll uncover the first lessons learned, any advice for other industries keen to implement a living wage, and the main incentives for business.


Closing Q&A: the current political climate: what does it mean for human rights and does your business have a role in responding?

The uneven consequences of globalisation, growth and trade are leading to a growing discontent with the current state of play. 2016 saw politics shift around the world, with the election of Donald Trump in the United States, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, and rising nationalism across China, Russia, India, Poland and more.

Changes are leading to increasing uncertainties in the role of government in safe-guarding human rights, raising the question if business should step up in place. This closing Q&A will explore this shifting paradigm, and discuss what legitimate role does business have in advocating for human rights.


Coffee reception

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