Thursday, November 6, 2014

Preview: BSR Conference, Thursday

Today, the last day of the BSR Conference, is chock-full of interesting speakers. Here's a summary of some of the highlights:

Human Rights in the Technology Sector


Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Corporation
Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Chief Compliance Officer, Cisco Systems Inc.
Eileen Donahoe, Director, Global Affairs, Human Rights Watch

It will be interesting to hear lawyers speak on human rights. In my experience, corporate lawyers tend to be more concerned with protecting the company than protecting those affected by company operations, so I'll be curious to see if these two break that mold.

Eileen Donahoe's inclusion on this panel likely means the focus will be on internet freedom, rather than supply chain sustainability and conflict minerals.

Breakout Session: Can Voluntary Frameworks Ensure Companies Respect Human Rights?


Ursula Wynhoven, General Counsel and Chief, Governance and Social Sustainability, United Nations Global Compact
Chris Albin-Lackey, Senior Researcher, Business and Human Rights Program, Human Rights Watch
Melike Ann Yetken, Senior Advisor for Corporate Responsibility, U.S. Department of State

This debate has been going on since long before the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were developed, so it will be interesting to hear if any of these players have shifted their opinion based on the progress and challenges in implementing a voluntary framework thus far.

Rona Starr

Rona Starr is the Director of Supplier Workplace Accountability at the McDonald's Corporation. Beyond a summary of McDonald's efforts to promote human rights throughout their supply chain, I'll be interested in the tone of her presentation. Specifically, I'll be looking for how much emphasis is placed on making a business case, as compared to a moral argument, to sell sustainability initiatives within the organization. As I'll explain in a future blogpost, I've noticed a trend during this conference and I'm curious if it will hold.

Darren Walker

Darren Walker is the President of the Ford Foundation, which provides grants and fellowships to individuals and organizations, focusing on eight social justice issues:

  • democratic and accountable government
  • economic fairness
  • educational opportunity and scholarship
  • freedom of expression
  • gender, sexuality, and reproductive justice
  • human rights
  • metropolitan opportunity
  • sustainable development

I wouldn't even dare to guess what Mr. Walker will focus on during his presentation but, if it's fantastic, I'll be sure to blog a bit about it and send a link to the video, when and if it becomes available.

Oh yeah and Bill Nye is closing the conference! If you want to see his presentation, check out the livestream at 6:40pm ET.

Note: I'm still deciding which afternoon breakout sessions to attend so, instead of previewing my options, I'll be sure to summarize the winners in a future blogpost.

The BSR Conference runs Tuesday through Thursday, in New York. The Agenda and link to livestream of selected events can be found here. Follow events at #BSR14 on twitter and stay tuned for more from me!

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