ICCR is excited to announce the launch of a new initiative, the Investor Alliance for Human Rights (IAHR), established to provide a collective action platform to facilitate investor advocacy on a full spectrum of human rights and labor rights issues. This new Alliance, the first of its kind, builds on longstanding ICCR member advocacy to amplify the global investor voice on critical human rights challenges and to promote corporate accountability on human rights.
The UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business provide a global framework to help companies assess and address human rights risks in their operations and supply chains. While some companies have shown leadership in integrating these principles into their policies and practices, most are still unaware of the breadth and depth of human rights impacts attributed to their businesses. Responsible investors have seen gaps in corporate human rights due diligence lead to legal, reputational and financial consequences. The recent Corporate Human Rights Benchmark report provides further evidence of the importance of assessing corporate human rights performance for a range of stakeholders. From health and safety violations that threaten workers' lives as they did in the Bangladesh apparel sector, to regulatory rollbacks that would undermine industry compliance with mandated disclosures such as the Dodd-Frank 1502 conflict minerals rule, coordinated investor action has been instrumental in helping to promote industry-wide adoption of human rights protocols. The Alliance is being established to create an umbrella beneath which a "coalition of the willing" from the investment community can advocate more immediately, consistently and strategically to protect human rights and to act as a deterrent against regressive legislative and regulatory action.
- Build a collective action platform that allows for the quick mobilization of a broad group of investors to advocate on urgent business and human rights issues. Alliance members will address both critical policy challenges, and emergent human rights risks arising from corporate operations and supply chains;
- Coordinate strategies with relevant stakeholders that can help amplify investor efforts, and;
- Expand the current shareholder engagement agenda on human rights.
Structure and Staffing
Participation in the Alliance will be open to all interested institutional investors both inside and outside the ICCR membership. The Alliance will be housed and staffed at ICCR’s headquarters in New York City with lead program direction from David Schilling, ICCR’s Sr. Program Director for Human Rights and an additional full time program director as well as administrative staff. A secretariat comprising diverse groups of investors will oversee the work of the Alliance including helping to develop strategy and guide actions. As the Alliance develops, we will be consulting with key investors and other stakeholders to secure their participation in shaping the Alliance to best meet the needs of participants and to maximize collective impact.
ICCR's Legacy Work in Human Rights
Since ICCR’s inception in 1971 when faith investors first coalesced to unite their voices against apartheid in South Africa, ICCR members have been pioneers in shareholder advocacy to promote improved corporate human rights due diligence. A few examples of earlier investor actions organized by ICCR include corporate engagements to improve working conditions in the Mexican maquiladoras, advocacy for the MacBride Principles to protect workers in Northern Ireland and, more recently, ICCR's convening of the Bangladesh Investor Initiative, a coalition of investors representing $4.5 trillion in assets after the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza and our signature "No Fees" initiative to prohibit the paying of fees by employees in the recruitment process. ICCR and its members are recognized by both corporations and other investors as leaders on the “S” issues in ESG engagements. The Alliance will be a natural outgrowth of ICCR’s history of human rights influence and an opportunity to invite investors beyond our community to partner with us in meeting today's business and human rights challenges.
Investors and Business and Human Rights Community Welcome the Formation of the Alliance
Caroline Rees, President and Co-Founder of Shift:
“The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make clear companies’ responsibility to respect human rights. We have seen through the work of the investor coalition that backs the UNGP Reporting Framework just how valuable the investor role can be in driving home that accountability. The need and appetite for investor action on human rights is greater today than ever; this initiative of the ICCR will create a common platform to further leverage the power of investor voices and focus and coordinate efforts to drive positive change.”
Anna Pot, Senior Sustainability Specialist at APG Asset Management:
“The outcomes of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark pilot study are another signal that companies still have more work to do on respecting human rights. In order to be effective, more investors should use their leverage to engage companies in a dialogue about truly integrating respect for human rights in their strategies. We are grateful to ICCR for providing a mechanism that empowers more investors’ work in this area.”
Patrick Doherty, Director of Corporate Governance at New York State, Office of the State Comptroller:
“For decades, ICCR has been a leader in engaging companies on human rights risks. The campaign against apartheid in South Africa, the MacBride Principles in Northern Ireland and more recently, the Bangladesh Investor Initiative after the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza are just a few examples of collective investor actions that have brought meaningful improvements in corporate practices. The need for investor engagement on human rights today is more important than ever, and we welcome ICCR’s leadership in establishing this Investor Alliance for Human Rights.”
Bennett Freeman, former SVP Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments
“Two decades of progress on corporate accountability and human rights is on the line in Washington with huge implications for companies, communities and countries around the world. Responsible investors have a vital moral and material stake in defending human rights and this new Investor Alliance will amplify their voice at a time of critical challenge.”
John Morrison, Chief Executive, Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB)
"Collective action is the only way to tackle a challenge of this scale. Drivers of human rights impacts are woven into the fabric of how business gets done around the world, and without many different levers being pulled at once that will not change. Investors are a key lever, and we welcome the Investor Alliance mobilising the collective body of investors to take their responsibilities head on."
This initiative is supported by funding from Humanity United and Open Society Foundations.