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HUMAN RIGHTS ARE A CORPORATE CONCERN

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HUMAN RIGHTS ARE A CORPORATE CONCERN

Author: Linas Bartusevicius, business development analyst, Forensic Risk Alliance

Human rights are increasingly becoming a more relevant topic for international companies. With growing international awareness of human rights issues and intolerance of abuses, companies have notable reasons to identify and implement effective human rights compliance programmes. For example,one area of growing commercial force is consumer activism, and in response to this companies market their products as sustainable and ethical, requiring a strong human rights compliance programme to support such claims. Socially Responsible Investing (“SRI”) requirements together with external pressures from NGOs, communities, and other stakeholders and interest groups also raise the risk profile, and increasing scrutiny from external stakeholders, combined with the growing access to the internet and social media in many developing countries, increases the likelihood that disregard for human rights will be flagged in the public domain. Finally, a good human rights record is particularly relevant when entering important new markets. We note with interest that past human rights and environmental violations by US shale gas companies have been an obstacle when trying to enter new European markets[1].

International law

Many instances of human rights violation take place in developing countries, where international companies have outsourced production facilities.  International law recognizes full corporate responsibility,including supply chains and other business partners[2].The United Nations Guiding Principles (“Guiding Principles”) on Business Ethics and Human Rights framework of ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ requires businesses to proactively implement measures to ensure that respect for human rights is upheld, especially in their supply chains. Guiding Principles also state that the responsibility to respect human rights goes beyond the corporation itself and extends to its supply chains and business partners.International businesses therefore implement measures such as human rights due diligence and remediation policies to protect human rights; this is often done in the context of corporate social responsibility (“CSR”)initiatives.

Fundamentals

Proactive human rights compliance programs are assisted by the development of reporting frameworks, standards, indicators and certification processes.Compliance programs are risk-adjusted and are often focused on supply chain management, as supply chains are perceived to be a risky and difficult to manage business process. Complexity, lack of transparency and staff training, business culture risk, and weaknesses in controls are some of the examples of the challenges within a supply chain.Risk assessments,and thereafter the design of appropriate policies, should take into consideration the nuances within the organisation’s businesses,existing policies and procedures, jurisdictional and regulatory requirements, as well as industry,- geography- and cultural-specific compliance risks.Many companies have set up production and manufacturing operations in developing countries to tap into local resources as well as the ability to produce at a lower cost. However, labour rights abuses are widespread in these developing economies; having effective internal whistle-blowing procedures allow grievances to be aired in an anonymous fashion and dealt with systematically. Oil and gas companies often receive complaints from indigenous communities with respect to land and property rights violations, for example the Mapuche communities in Argentina alleged in 2014 that they were not consulted, in accordance with the International Labour Convention 169, by state-run YPF or Chevron (partnership) regarding the use of the controversial fracking method on lands on which they reside. Instances such as these illustrate the need for companies to have effective policies for engaging with local and indigenous communities. Moreover, to be able to deal with human rights issues effectively, businesses must track information and trends relating to a continuous development human rights compliance policy. This requires constant auditing and screening of the supply chain, often with a focus on specific supply base risks.In addition, human rights must be discussed and understood by the management of the company; a top-down approach is appropriate when implementing human rights compliance programmes.

The beginning

The first step in human rights due diligence is the most important:the performance of a risk-focussed audit, including contractors, suppliers and other business partners, to identify current status regarding human rights is likely to be an extensive exercise. This includes gathering data through questionnaires and interviews, and where relevant through supply chain visits.Once the nature of the business and its operations are properly mapped, and after consulting local communities and organisations specialising in the particular field,experts and managers can identify the key risk areas. The Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Framework Initiative refer to these as‘salient issues’[3], i.e. those which could have the most severe negative impact.Audits should include a review of the company’s human rights record and resolution of previous negative impacts, where the information is then used to evaluate the effectiveness of existing human rights policies.

Implementation

Once performance against key human rights policies has been evaluated, the company must identify and prioritise the business segments requiring improvement. For instance, in its very first human rights report under the Reporting and Assurance Framework Initiative, Unilever identified eight salient issues: discrimination, fair wages, forced labour, freedom of association, harassment, health and safety, land rights and working hours. The company then focused on policies to tackle those issues,or at least to mitigate their impact.Implementation should not be limited to in-house processes only, and should be extended to encompass business partners and third party suppliers as they are effectively an extension of a company’s operation. While focusing on salient issues and geographical factors help mitigate identified risks, companies need to remain constantly alert to the emergence of other unprecedented or unforeseen human rights issues and impacts. In fact, many of today’s industry leaders have chosen to mitigate their risks by constant promotion of strong compliance cultures internally as well as with their supplier and partner networks.

Continuous improvement

It is important to understand that the creation of human rights policy and compliance program effectiveness go hand-in-hand.Policies and implementation should be reviewed periodically to determine the accuracy of the risk assessment performed and the continuous effectiveness of the compliance program as human rights issues are not static. The tone at the top should be set by senior management through actively promoting the awareness and adherence with the policy; else the policy and program will not be effective post-implementation. Furthermore, reporting on compliance with human rights should include feedback from affected stakeholders, information which is valuable when evaluating the company’s human rights practice.

Conclusion

Corporations have been, and increasingly are, under increasing pressure from and scrutiny by stakeholders and consumers to respect human rights in their operations. It is clear that delivering products to consumers at target cost and quality levels is no longer sufficient for success; consumers also want products to be sourced and produced in an ethical and environmentally friendly way. According to BusinessWire, by 2017 the millennial generation will outspend Baby Boomers[4]; the trend indicates that smart companies will adapt their strategies to appeal to the characteristics of both groups. Some of the brands most favoured by “millennials” have good sustainability records and take pride in respecting human rights and the environment, thus proactive and positive reporting on human rights and sustainability,accompanied bythe implementation of effective compliance programmes,provides a competitive advantage for multinational companies.

[1]http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2014/542167/EPRS_BRI(2014)542167_REV1_EN.pdf

[3]http://www.ungpreporting.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/UNGuidingPrinciplesReportingFramework_withimplementationguidance_Feb2015.pdf

[4]http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20131024006116/en/Millennials-Outspend-Baby-Boomer-Catching-Retail-Industry#.Va4QdvlViko

Business

Ahead of expected IPO, Deliveroo recruits Next’s Wolfson to board

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Ahead of expected IPO, Deliveroo recruits Next's Wolfson to board 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Deliveroo said on Tuesday it has beefed up its board ahead of an expected initial public offering this year with the appointment of Simon Wolfson, the veteran boss of clothing retailer Next, as a non-executive director.

The food delivery company said on Sunday it had raised a further $180 million from existing investors, including minority shareholder Amazon, in a move that values the business at more than $7 billion.

Deliveroo is set to hold an IPO in the coming months, in what would be the biggest new share issue in London for three years.

Wolfson’s appointment comes after Deliveroo named Claudia Arney as the company’s first chair in November.

Deliveroo founder and CEO Will Shu said Wolfson would bring “great knowledge and insight” to the board.

Wolfson has been Next’s CEO since 2001.

He is also a peer of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, sitting in the upper house of parliament.

(Reporting by James Davey and Paul Sandle; editing by Sarah Young and Pravin Char)

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Dollar drops as traders prepare for Yellen to talk up stimulus

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Dollar drops as traders prepare for Yellen to talk up stimulus 2

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar dropped on Tuesday as investors prepared for U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen to talk up the need for major fiscal stimulus and commit to a market-determined exchange rate when she testifies later in the day.

The dollar’s fall came after a 2% rise so far in 2021, a gain which caught off guard many investors who had bet on a further decline following its weakness in 2020.

The dollar has been helped in January by rising U.S. Treasury yields and some investor caution about the strength of the global economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. But most analysts are sticking with their calls for a weaker dollar from here.

“On fiscal policy, Yellen is to suggest that the US `act big’ and make use of the low borrowing costs. On the dollar, it should be reiterated that the new administration is committed to the market-determined exchange rate. Both are in line with our weak USD outlook,” ING analysts wrote.

President-elect Joe Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus package.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported Yellen, who is appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, will affirm a more conventional commitment to market-set currency rates in her Senate testimony on Tuesday.

That contrasts with outgoing President Donald Trump, who often railed against dollar strength.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against a basket of other currencies, dropped 0.3% to 90.472, but it was still above the its more than two-and-a-half-year low of 89.206 touched at the start of this month.

With the dollar weakening, the euro gained, rising 0.5% to $1.2132.

The single currency was unaffected by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s facing a confidence vote to stay in office. The result vote is due after 1800 GMT.

More volatile and commodity-linked currencies, such as the Australian dollar, also benefited from the weaker U.S. currency, with the Aussie up 0.3% at $0.7707.

Rising commodity prices in recent months have boosted currencies of countries with large commodity exports, such as Australia and Canada.

“We continue to see scope for further gains in commodity-related currencies in the year ahead, which should benefit as well from the strengthening global recovery once vaccines are rolled out more widely,” said Lee Hardman, an analyst at MUFG.

Sterling rose 0.2% to $1.3620.

The dollar rose against the yen and was last up 0.3% to 104.02 yen, although still consolidating in a narrow range after reaching a one-month high of 104.40 last week.

Emerging-market currencies were mostly higher but were some way off recent highs.

(Editing by Gareth Jones, Larry King)

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Creating a people-centric workplace centered on flexibility, experience and wellbeing

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Creating a people-centric workplace centered on flexibility, experience and wellbeing 3

By Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, Logitech EMEA

The light is appearing at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been 2020. With vaccination schemes now underway, we can (albeit cautiously) dare to dream of a general return to relative normality. Yet in the wake of the pandemic, neither our personal liaves nor our work lives will ever be quite the same.

A wholesale change to working practices, and the nature of how and where we work, is set to be one of the big lasting legacies of 2020. Cal Henderson, co-founder of Slack, recently came forward to say he thinks that the age of the office is coming to an end. In a less extreme view, AWS’ CEO Andy Jassy predicts we’ll see the rise of ‘hot offices’, where employees will mostly work remotely, only coming into the office when they need to work on specific projects. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates predicts the age of business travel is over, with only 50% of business trips set to resume.

As the office evolves it’s clear employers will have to adapt their spaces in line with new, post-pandemic wellbeing and workplace trends, and create an office centred around “super experiences” that makes it a destination in itself.

So, in what ways will working practices change, and how do we see the physical workspace evolving?

Re-focussing on the employee

Ultimately, the pandemic has re-focussed the discussion on how employees can best work, and how teams are spending their time. It has also given employers the opportunity to ensure they’re in a better position to help people find a good work life balance.

Yet even after Coronavirus, it’s clear we won’t be working from home forever. The UK government says work from home orders may stay in place until April 2021 and with this in mind a flexible, and hybrid, way of working is set to stay. Employees feel that way too – a recent Simply Communicate survey found only 2% want to go back to the full week in the office.

With the digital tools available and the experience gained over the past 10 months, the idea of everyone being in the office everyday seems old fashioned and unnecessary. People don’t want to travel into an office to then just be sat at their desk for eight hours. What they want is to connect with colleagues, to learn, to be inspired and to share with others.

Anne Marie Ginn

Anne Marie Ginn

Whilst getting your head down to work is important, social time and collaboration is equally valued, and central to general wellbeing. For many employees, their work is central to their sense of self, their meaning and purpose, and after a long period of being at home alone, they’ll be yearning for those in-person, face-to-face experiences. This should be placed at the forefront of modern office culture and design.

An office designed for the people working in it

Offices will become destinations unto themselves – for collaboration, innovation and strengthening team relationships – and less about desk-based or task-based work. The space should also be vibrant and different.

These offices should offer a mixture of meeting rooms and open operational space, which will promote gathering for teamwork, collaboration and companywide networking events. At the same time, smaller collaborative working areas, enabled by video, will facilitate break away group work for those both physically present and working remotely. Banks of individual cubicles will disappear, and instead we’ll see occasional, dedicated concentration pods for when employees need to get their heads down between meetings. And how about relaxation pods should employees want a quick break and recharge?

Beyond work, offices also need to become social destinations in themselves. A recent JLL study found that nearly half of employees hope their office will prioritise social spaces, such as coffee areas, lounges or outdoor terraces and gardens. Common areas play a central role in nurturing informal work relationships, which improve development opportunities and help career outlook – especially crucial for people early in their work life. These spaces allow employees to maintain the inspiration, energy and social connection that comes with belonging to a physical team and environment – something which many found a real challenge to maintain virtually during the pandemic.

Flexible schedules and shared spaces will also lead to a “rightsizing” of office space, where organisations will rethink their real estate, in what will undoubtedly save costs. Some are even predicting that we’ll see the creation of an office ‘ecosystem’, which will comprise of employees working from offices, houses, and third places such as cafes, coworking spaces, and libraries.

Tech and video as the glue for hybrid working

While all of the above will support flexibility, functionality and employee wellbeing, for it to all work it needs high-end peripherals, such as Logitech’s MX Series of high-performance mice and keyboards, and collaboration software to pull it together. This tech needs to help us and not take us away from people, helping our collective mental health in environments that could be potentially isolating.

This human centred approach to work collaboration requires non-intrusive, seamless video conferencing and productivity tools. Through each space in the office, from large town hall style areas, through to smaller huddle rooms, personal workspaces and even satellite offices in the suburbs, these video solutions and smart productivity technologies can help to bring together a team as one.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of high-quality video tools available that can fit the needs of the modern worker within each individual environment. From large 4K cameras with the ability to pan, tilt and zoom to focus on an individual speaking within a large room, to wide angled huddle room cameras for smaller groups, and webcams with integrated high-quality microphones and optics to make sure remote workers are seen and heard just as clearly as if they were physically in the office.

The hybrid opportunity

The hybrid office presents itself with an opportunity to make work better for employees, while creating a more committed and motivated workforce. There’s also potential to save money through reduced office related overheads.

Tied together by smart technologies such as video, this hybrid office has the potential to make employees happier, more motivated and equipped to do their best work. Video will pivot from being the technology we used to survive during the pandemic to the one we use to thrive.

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