“The rapid development of this field is remarkable”, Logos Senior Fellow Anthony Ewing tells law students at Columbia University, where he has taught Transnational Business and Human Rights since 2001. “I guarantee you will encounter these issues early on in your careers, whether you advise corporate clients, advocacy organizations, or government policymakers.”

That was not always true.

As Ewing has written,

“When companies operating in China adopted the first corporate human rights codes of conduct in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square in 1989, business managers and human rights advocates could scarcely speak the same language. By 2011, when Egyptian demonstrators filled Tahrir Square, business people and advocates alike framed the human rights issues at stake in the shared language and concepts of corporate human rights responsibilities. In just over twenty years, the field of business and human rights had come into its own.”

Anthony Ewing-2

Along the way, for the past fifteen years, Anthony has contributed to the development of business and human rights as both a field of practice, and a field of study. As a business advisor, he helps companies to engage stakeholders, conduct due diligence, and implement policies and programs to manage the risk of adverse human rights impacts. As an academic member of the United Nations Global Compact Human Rights and Labour Working Group, Anthony works to identify and disseminate corporate responsibility best practices. He has also served as an independent corporate responsibility expert for the International Labour Organization, evaluating a program to eliminate child labor from the production of soccer balls in Pakistan.

Ewing has also contributed to the field through his teaching, writing and promotion of business and human rights education. Most recently, Anthony authored a chapter on mandatory human rights reporting for the new textbook, Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice, published last month by Routledge.


Five years ago, Ewing co-founded the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum, a platform for collaboration among individuals teaching business and human rights worldwide. The Forum has grown to include more than 225 members teaching business and human rights at some 115 institutions in 28 countries. Next week, the Forum’s sixth annual Teaching Business and Human Rights Workshop at Columbia University will bring together Forum members teaching at business schools, at law schools, and at schools of public policy.

Teaching Handbook Screen Shot

One project of the Teaching BHR Forum, aimed at connecting teachers with resources for teaching the most common business and human rights topics, is an online Teaching Business and Human Rights Handbook. Anthony contributed the first teaching note, on Introducing the UN Guiding Principles and Business and Human Rights, and is leading the effort to recruit faculty to author additional Notes.

“Promoting business and human rights education in every setting, and teaching it effectively, has the potential — not only to help companies meet their responsibilities and improve business performance — but to strengthen the enjoyment, protection and provision of human rights for everyone,” says Ewing.

For more about his work, please contact Anthony Ewing at: aewing@logosconsulting.net.

Mandatory Human Rights Reporting

The number of companies worldwide subject to some form of human rights reporting is increasing as states mandate corporate reporting on non-financial issues.

Logos Senior Fellow Anthony Ewing surveys corporate human rights reporting requirements worldwide in a chapter he contributed to Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice, an interdisciplinary textbook published this month by Routledge.


Ewing surveys current forms of mandatory reporting – financial, non-financial and human rights – that require companies to address their human rights policies, due diligence and impacts. The chapter highlights reporting requirements in India, Denmark, the United Kingdom (Modern Slavery Act), the European Union (Directive on Non-Financial Reporting), China and the United States (conflict minerals disclosure, California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, responsible investment in Myanmar).

At this point, according to Ewing, the objective of most mandatory reporting is information disclosure: regulations address whether companies should report on their human rights policies, not necessarily how. Current reporting requirements do not prescribe or evaluate what companies are actually doing about human rights impacts connected to their operations. Future disclosure regulations, however, may be more narrowly tailored to prescribe human rights due diligence as well as what companies must do to act on what they learn. He concludes that

“while mandatory human rights reporting has the potential to shape corporate behavior, is raising expectations of greater corporate transparency, and is beginning to produce information about corporate human rights policies and due diligence, . . . legally mandated reporting to date is not yet aimed squarely at preventing the adverse human rights impacts of corporate activities.”

Edited by Dorothée Baumann-Pauly (NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights) and Justine Nolan (Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales), Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice provides an overview of this rapidly growing area of teaching and research with contributions from more than thirty experts. The textbook outlines the business and human rights movement, explores the legal framework for business and human rights, highlights the practical implementation challenges and standard-setting frameworks in different industries and discusses the future of the business and human rights field.

Anthony’s corporate responsibility practice at Logos helps companies to engage stakeholders, conduct due diligence, and implement policies and programs that effectively manage the risk of adverse human rights impacts. He has taught corporate responsibility at Columbia University since 2001 and is a member of the United Nations Global Compact Human Rights and Labour Working Group.

Anthony Book

For more information about our work in this area, please contact Anthony Ewing at: aewing@logosconsulting.net.

by Anthony Ewing | Bio | Posts
8 Apr 2015

Mandatory human rights reporting is coming soon to a jurisdiction near you. Is your company ready?

Large European companies need to review their human rights policies and the risks of human rights impacts linked to their operations over the next two years. The catalyst is a European Parliament Directive adopted in October that requires companies to report annually on non-financial issues, beginning in 2017. Under the Directive, large, publicly listed European companies must report annually on how they are meeting the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, as well as environmental, social and employee-related, and anti-corruption and bribery matters. The Directive mandates corporate disclosure of human rights due diligence and consideration of human rights risks, consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Non-financial reports must include a “description of the policies pursued” relating to respect for human rights, including “due diligence processes implemented;” “the outcome of those policies;” principal human rights risks linked to the company’s operations, including its “business relationships, products or services” likely to cause adverse impacts; and relevant non-financial performance indicators. While the regulation is of the “comply or explain” variety – companies must disclose existing policies or explain why they have no policies on these matters – and carries no penalty for noncompliance, the twenty-eight member states of the European Union will implement the Directive through national legislation, in which each country is free to set more stringent disclosure requirements and possible penalties.

The European Non-Financial Reporting Directive is part of a broader trend of mandatory reporting that seeks to promote corporate respect for human rights through greater corporate transparency. Like financial reporting that provides material information for investors, human rights reporting informs consumers, investors and policymakers about the human rights impacts of business operations. Advocacy organizations, like those in the European Coalition of Corporate Justice, and investors, like those in the sustainable and responsible investment network Eurosif, pushed for adoption of the Directive. In the United States, mandatory corporate human rights reporting is emerging around specific issues, such as conflict minerals, forced labor and human trafficking, and specific geographies, such as Central Africa and Burma. No non-financial reporting regulation to date in the United States applies as broadly as the European Directive, however, which is estimated to cover some 6,000 European companies.

The Directive and similar regulations will force many companies to address their human rights impacts for the first time. How should executives prepare? Companies can take a number of steps to meet escalating expectations of greater transparency about corporate human rights impacts:

  • Conduct human rights due diligence.

Companies that understand the human rights impacts of their operations and business relationships are in a better position to prevent or mitigate those risks. Conducting a human rights impact assessment can reveal actual and potential human rights risks and allow a company to prioritize actions to address the most severe risks. Nestlé, for example, based on information from human rights impact assessments (PDF), has taken steps to reduce excessive working hours, improve road safety training for its drivers, add human rights principles to its contracts with security providers, and develop an external grievance mechanism.

  • Integrate human rights considerations into existing policies and procedures.

A growing number of companies have made explicit commitments to respect human rights in corporate codes of conduct, supplier standards and corporate responsibility reports. Adopting a human rights policy is an important step. Companies are also finding ways to integrate human rights considerations into existing management systems, which can be easier than creating stand-alone policies. Even without “human rights” language, corporate policies and procedures can relate to a company’s human rights impacts. Executives should review their employment, security and compliance policies, for example, to identify ways that they can address the human rights impacts of the company’s operations and business relationships.

  • Become familiar with human rights reporting frameworks.

Meaningful human rights reporting accounts for how a company addresses its human rights impacts, especially risks of severe human rights impacts, and serves as a basis to measure future performance. Companies are developing key performance indicators relevant for their businesses and the particular human rights risks they face. Almost all of the world’s 250 largest companies are publishing non-financial reports. More than 7,000 companies have reported non-financial issues consistent with the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, which include human rights indicators. The recently launched Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI), piloted by the European multinationals Unilever, Ericsson, Nestlé and H&M, can help companies report on their human rights performance in line with the UN Guiding Principles. The European Commission is expected to issue non-binding guidelines for reporting non-financial information under the European Directive.

While European companies now have a regulatory deadline to start reporting, all companies would do well to better understand their non-financial impacts and how to manage them. Whether mandatory or not, non-financial and human rights reporting is an emerging business practice and stakeholder expectation of leading companies with the potential to influence your company’s reputation and bottom line for years to come.

Helio Fred Garcia Helio Fred Garcia | Bio | Posts
5 Nov 2014 | 3:07PM

This is my third in a series of guest blogs featuring my recently-graduated capstone (thesis) advisees in New York University’s Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.

(See my earlier posts: On Wall Street, Reputation, and Recovery: Guest Blog by Julia Sahin here; A Model Apology by Iris Wenting Xue here.)

Today I share the post with Claudia Espinel, whose thesis focused on a challenging topic: ways to reduce violence in regions with conflict caused by the extraction of oil.  Her full capstone, A Discourse Analysis of Major Players in Regions with Oil Conflict: The Case of the Niger Delta, can be found here.


Claudia Espinel

Claudia Espinel

During the last five years, Claudia has worked for both national and international NGOs, using communication to promote social change.

By using the Niger Delta conflict as case study, Claudia analyzes the written documents of oil companies, the government, and the community involved in the conflict. Even though violence in this region has its roots in ethnic issues, the arrival of the oil industry enhanced the existing violence. Political, economic, environmental, and social factors have created an environment in which there is friction between the oil companies, the government, and the community. They have built a relationship characterized by lack of trust, respect, and tolerance.


Claudia argues that communication practitioners can help build sustainable peace by creating initiatives to change the dynamic of the relation of players of the Niger Delta conflict. Although it is difficult to create a common communication strategy for different cultures, regions dealing with oil conflicts share characteristics that make this capstone useful for similar conflicts across the world.

Changing Narratives in Regions Dealing with Oil Conflict

 by Claudia Espinel

When the oil industry drilled the first oil well in 1958 in the Niger Delta, Nigeria became one of the strongest economies in Africa while the Niger Delta remained as one of the poorest regions in Nigeria.

Nigeria Flag

Nigeria Flag

Even though underdevelopment in this region is rooted in ethnic conflict since before Nigeria’s independence from England in 1960, the arrival of the oil industry worsened the already fragile situation of the Niger Delta. Since then, oil companies, host communities, and the government have built a narrative of blame, hate, accusations, and stereotypes that sustain a culture in which violence is understood as the only way to survive.

This long-standing violent conflict is a classic example of the “the oil curse”—the theory that oil wealth engenders violence and slow economic growth in countries with weak governments, under-developed oil regions, and petroleum dependent economies. Key players in oil conflicts­­—such as oil companies, the government, and communities—use narratives that support the use of violence as a protective tool, increasingly making it impossible for people to see others as anything different than enemies.

In order to transform oil conflicts, it is necessary to create a disruption in the dominant narrative people create to understand and frame them. Communication plans should focus on changing the relationship between the parties on each side of the conflict by promoting a narrative of respect, trust, and tolerance. In order for this to happen the following strategies should be put in place:

  1. Build a unified community voice: If the local community wants to have a seat at the table where decisions are made, they need to have a clear agenda and someone to lead it. Elders, community leaders, and grassroots organizations need to build a leadership structure that facilitates the process of decision-making within the community and develop skills to transform conflicts using non-violent means.
  2. Promote reconciliation: Rebuilding the relationship among players of oil conflicts requires an environment in which justice is possible and people have the opportunity to heal past injustices. In this way, they can focus on building a future instead of focusing on the past grievances.
  3. Address the root of the conflict instead of focusing on interventions to tackle the symptoms: Addressing only the symptoms of the conflict such as oil looting and militant groups has not brought peace to the Niger Delta. It has only momentarily decreased violence. As people begin to demand jobs, better healthcare systems, and prevention of environmental degradation, they also begin to feel betrayed by the government and the oil companies, which seem to bring palliative solutions, instead of action to promote the long-term survival of the local community.
  4. Place accountability and transparency at the heart of every communication: Ensure congruence between discourse and actions. In order to build constructive relationships in which cooperation is possible, it is necessary to promote trust among oil companies, the government, and the local community. It requires fighting against corruption and a strict policy of accountability and transparency in every project that operates in the region. For instance, oil spills may happen, however, if the community knows what the oil companies are doing to prevent them and mitigate the subsequent impact of them, communities will be more likely to engage in campaigns to stop oil theft and inform the authorities about oil spill.
  5. Establish a mechanism to promote two-way communication with host communities: The government and the oil companies need to be aware of local traditions, use communication channels that are familiar to the host community, work with community leaders, and respect traditional political structures. Communities need to be informed in a timely manner to any major development and must have the opportunity to present their opinions.
  6. Build partnerships: Blaming and emphasizing the other party’s responsibilities does not help to reduce violence. Nor does prioritizing the relationship between oil companies, the government, and elites while disregarding the importance of building partnership with the local community. Rather, it is vital to create projects and promote dialogue in which those involved in the conflict cooperate towards a common goal.

These recommendations are aimed at achieving peaceful relations in regions facing oil conflict.

However, there is more that needs to be done to promote a narrative of non-violence in countries dealing with this issue. Please share your thoughts on how to use communication to build a culture of peace in those places where oil or other natural resources have become a source of violence.

Claudia’s continues to investigate and develop communication strategies that build peace, and to create initiatives to motivate people to use non-violent means of transforming conflicts.

You can follow Claudia on Twitter at @claudiaespinel.  You can reach her directly at claudiaespinel@gmail.com.

In future posts I’ll share the work of other recent NYU MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication graduates.  Stay tuned…

You can subscribe to receive Logos’ blog posts automatically by registering here.

An expanded version of this post, “UN Human Rights Framework: What executives need to know and do about human rights, Part I and Part II”  appears on the website of Ethical Corporation (UK).

Human rights have been a concern for some companies since the anti-Apartheid divestment campaigns of the 1980s, but there has been no broad-based uptake of human rights as a business discipline. Relatively few companies have human rights in their corporate vocabulary.

This may be the year human rights go mainstream, thanks, largely, to the work of John Ruggie, serving for the past six years as the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Business and Human Rights.

Ruggie has forged a working consensus among companies, governments and advocates that human rights are not just a business concern, but that both governments and companies have human rights responsibilities. The Ruggie, or UN, Framework – “Protect, Respect and Remedy” – asserts that governments must protect against abuses by companies; companies must respect human rights; and victims must have access to remedies.

“Protect, respect and remedy” is a phrase that many executives will hear and be asked to explain over the next twelve months. This Spring, the UN Human Rights Council is expected to endorse Guiding Principles for both governments and companies to meet their responsibilities under the Framework. For the first time, companies have a clear roadmap for making human rights part of their compliance and corporate responsibility efforts. If you are, or advise, one of those executives, there are ten things you need to know (and do) about human rights: Read more

Since public trust in the private sector has hit historic lows, demonstrating corporate responsibility has become even more important for today’s corporate leaders. Effective corporate responsibility – meeting (or exceeding) stakeholder expectations for financial, social and environmental performance -restores trust and credibility. Unfortunately, when companies attempt to talk about corporate responsibility, they often do more harm than good, causing even more damage to the company’s reputation. Common pitfalls are communicating instead of improving performance; ignoring reasonable critics; and reporting only what is required.

How can companies talk about corporate responsibility without shooting themselves in the foot? In my experience, companies that communicate corporate responsibility effectively follow seven rules.

1)    Demonstrate, don’t assert.

Resist the temptation to demonstrate corporate responsibility via press release. Whenever a company talks about corporate responsibility, communication should follow action. Many skeptical audiences assume that corporate statements, if not misleading, will be self-serving and provide only a limited perspective. Assertions of corporate responsibility without the appropriate due diligence, policies, and actions backing them up will quickly prompt critics to highlight inconsistencies between word and deed. Just last week at the annual Business for Social Responsibility Conference, eBay CEO John Donahoe put it this way, “You can’t tackle your reputation until you tackle your actions.”

2)    Get the facts.

Responsibility begins with accurate information. Without a clear understanding of conditions on the ground, companies cannot improve corporate responsibility performance. Accurate information, collected through due diligence tools like human rights impact assessments, not only informs smart business decisions, it minimizes the risks of communicating. Companies that provide policymakers with reliable information can reduce pressure for regulation. Companies that audit their operations can reduce the risk of legal liability. Accurate information is just as important for advocates who seek to improve corporate performance. A common set of facts provides a basis for engagement and collaboration among stakeholders.

3)    Engage critics.

Most companies are exceedingly cautious and reluctant to engage critics. While a company may not agree with or ultimately adopt the recommendations of a critic, engaging critical external stakeholders in honest dialogue can earn credibility and demonstrate a corporate commitment to addressing the issues at stake. After Amnesty International released a 2003 report criticizing the human rights impact of a BP pipeline project, BP engaged Amnesty in dialogue, and sought to address the concerns by incorporating international human rights standards in the legal agreements governing the project. Engaging its main critic and taking stakeholder concerns seriously earned the company credibility. Engaging reasonable critics can also provide a company with valuable information and expertise, and set the stage for collaboration or partnership.

4)    Be transparent.

Demands for greater corporate transparency are common in the wake of the financial crisis. Transparency has always been a hallmark of effective corporate responsibility. Communicating accurate information that is complete, relevant and measurable allows stakeholders to make their own assessments of corporate performance. As a rule of thumb, more information is better than less. High levels of transparency earn credibility with stakeholders and critics, create incentives for continuous improvement, and encourage the adoption of best practices. While companies that embrace full disclosure risk criticism, choosing to report as little as possible is a short-sighted strategy. For years, apparel companies resisted calls by advocates for full disclosure of factory locations. Despite its experience as a target of criticism, in 2005, Nike reversed the company’s longstanding position. By unilaterally disclosing all of its contract factory locations, Nike earned credibility while leveling the playing field among apparel brands and competitors. Nike’s principal rival, Adidas, ultimately disclosed its factory locations three years later. Companies must overcome cultural biases against public disclosure and seek levels of transparency sufficient to establish facts, demonstrate performance and earn credibility among stakeholders.

5)    Define the company’s “sphere of influence.”

No company can, or should, assume responsibility for all the issues of concern to its stakeholders. Companies fall into the trap of accepting too much responsibility when other entities – governments, for example – must act to achieve lasting improvements. Conversely, companies that define their influence and responsibilities too narrowly risk a stakeholder backlash. A clear definition of a company’s sphere of influence, consistent with a company’s business, can go a long way toward meeting the expectations of stakeholders. The multi-stakeholder Global Network Initiative, for example, calls on its member companies to “prioritize circumstances where it has the greatest influence and/or where the risk to freedom of expression and privacy is at its greatest.” Leading companies evaluate and prioritize the corporate responsibility issues they face and allocate resources accordingly.

6)    Earn credibility.

Third parties are the most powerful corporate responsibility communicators. The opinions of credible experts and independent stakeholders almost always carry greater weight than corporate assertions, especially in an atmosphere of mistrust of corporate motives. Independent monitoring was one of the first expectations of stakeholders when companies began to adopt voluntary codes of conduct. A single statement of support from a respected former critic can do more for a company’s reputation than years of corporate communication. But you have to earn that credibility. Ways companies have earned credibility include adopting widely accepted external standards, partnering with stakeholders, and acknowledging problems. The best corporate responsibility reports, for example, are notable for the candor with which they acknowledge failures and address performance obstacles.

7)    Connect corporate responsibility to business strategy.

Stakeholders who value information on social and environmental performance look for evidence that a company’s corporate responsibility initiatives reflect an ongoing organizational commitment rather than an ad hoc response to an isolated issue. Are corporate responsibility efforts integrated, well-understood and rewarded at all levels of an organization, from the boardroom to the factory floor? Is every corporate function able to make the business case for corporate responsibility? The most effective communications demonstrate how a company’s corporate responsibility efforts advance key business objectives.

By adopting these best practices for communicating corporate responsibility, corporate leaders can avoid common pitfalls and focus on improving financial, social and environmental performance.

Many corporate counsel and human rights advocates will view last month’s $15.5 million settlement of Wiwa v. Shell, correctly, as further evidence that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) is a viable tool for corporate human rights accountability. The future of corporate human rights accountability, however, is more likely to focus on human rights due diligence and reporting than human rights litigation. Companies and human rights organizations that hope to influence the business and human rights debate should devote resources to improving corporate human rights due diligence and to shaping human rights reporting requirements under national law.

Potential legal liability for corporate complicity in the worst forms of human rights abuse is now a permanent feature of doing business for most transnational companies. Some form of legal jurisdiction over the extra-territorial activities of home companies is increasingly common in OECD countries. For transnational companies doing business in the United States, the ATS provides foreign victims of the worst forms of human rights abuse a tool for holding corporations accountable for their actions abroad. Read more

Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local country sites . . . operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based.

– Yahoo! Spokesperson, September 2005


Human rights trump doing business.  . . .  Internet companies must learn when not to hide behind the notion that we are corporations so it is our number one obligation just to do business. It isn’t our number one obligation. Our number one obligation is to be good world citizens.

– Carol Bartz, Yahoo! CEO, Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Summit, May 2009

What a difference media attention, a lawsuit, Congressional hearings, and ousting the CEO makes. Like earlier corporate responsibility poster children under intense pressure from stakeholders (see Nike), Yahoo is transforming itself from a laggard to a leader.

Read more

Worth Reading: Harvard Business Review, June, 2009, special section: Rebuilding Trust

I’ve been teaching ethics in graduate business and communication programs at New York University for more than 20 years, and every semester we lament the decline of trust.

But this year seems to be worse than most.  Trust in US corporations is at an all-time low, 38 percent, according to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer.  And most other measures of trust in institutions also point to continuing declines.

The June issue of Harvard Business Review takes on the issue of trust with a 25-page special report, Rebuilding Trust.  It’s worth reading.  The package includes a forceful critique of business school curricula, a 100-year timeline of highlights and lowlights in the public’s trust of business, and a counter-intuitive piece on how despite recent events people may still be trusting too much.

But the real payoff is the first piece in the package, by James O’Toole and Warren Bennis.   O’Toole is the Daniels Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, and Bennis is University Professor at the University of Southern California.  The two are co-authors (with Daniel Goleman and Patricia Ward Biederman) of Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor (Jossey-Bass, 2008).

The special report opens with O’Toole’s and Bennis’ conclusion:

“We won’t be able to rebuild trust in institutions until leaders learn how to communicate honestly — and create organizations where that’s the norm.”

Read more

A few years ago, I came across a twenty-five year old article from the Harvard Business Review, “Can a Corporation Have a Conscience?” The 1982 piece, written by HBS Professors Kenneth E. Goodpaster and John B. Mathews, Jr., applies principles of moral philosophy to what was then the relatively new field of corporate responsibility.

I was struck by the relevance of their analysis for business leaders struggling with corporate responsibility today. Since 1982, corporate responsibility programs have proliferated.  Professionals seeking to design, implement and evaluate these efforts spend a good deal of time defining corporate responsibility for their organization. Is it compliance? Is it philanthropy? Or is it something more? I subscribe to the “something more” view and encourage my clients and students to go beyond compliance and philanthropy and define corporate responsibility as meeting the expectations of stakeholders.

Goodpaster and Mathews provide another definition, one that could help today’s executives trying to decide which corporate responsibility initiatives merit investment. Their definition suggests executives could measure a corporate responsibility program against two benchmarks: rationality and respect.

Read more