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Business in Times of Disruption: Leading by Example During and After the COVID-19 Crisis

An event with Mr. Salil Tripathi, Mr. Namit Agarwal, Ms. Anisha Rajapakse, Ms. Josephine Satyono, Ms. Sophia Areias and Ms. Cynthia Peterson
Institute for Human Rights and Business, World Benchmarking Alliance, Fair Labour Alliance (FLA), Global Compact Network Indonesia, United Nations Development Programme and Petroliam Nasional Berhas (PETRONAS)

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About this event

BACKGROUND

Six months ago, at the Business Roundtable, 181 CEOs committed to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders via new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. Who would have thought that this commitment will be put to a litmus test so soon? COVID-19 and the societal, political and economic chaos caused by it has posed significant challenges for businesses to act responsibly and respect human rights. The same CEOs haves to strike the right balance between managing the competing responsibilities towards their employees, suppliers, customers and investors as they absorb deficits and stable cashflow. However, leaders are distinguishing themselves from laggards amidst this ambiguity and many have risen to the challenge to contribute positively. At the same time, an increase in layoffs and labour rights abuses is noted widely. Additionally, large corporations and corporate lobbies have taken advantage to weaken regulations for profits.

SESSION DESCRIPTION

Businesses across the globe are trying to stay alive in the face of significant economic downturn and a potential global depression. Nonetheless, can they still act responsibly, and if so, how exactly? Further, can businesses benefit from doing so, even though they may incur additional costs or forego revenue or profits in the short term? What should business do when they are compelled or required to act irresponsibly by States? This session seeks to provide some clarity on these issues to businesses and share good practices undertaken by the businesses in times of COVID-19, especially those practices that are aimed at ensuring that adverse human rights impacts (potentially) resulting from core business activities are addressed.

SESSION OBJECTIVES

This session aims to:

  • Highlight how companies can strike a balance between surviving and doing the right thing;

  • Identify existing responsible business practice relating to COVID-19 and core business activities;

  • Provide industry- or issue-specific good practices, as well as practices transferable across industries or issues.

QUESTIONS

  • What does it mean to act responsibly during COVID-19? How does this relate to core business activities, employees, suppliers, consumers, and society?

  • How can businesses act responsibly when States promote irresponsible behaviour?

  • What responsible business practices would you like to share with your private sector peers? What effect did they have on employees, suppliers, consumers, and society?

Mr. Salil Tripathi

Salil Tripathi is a writer and policy adviser with experience in researching corporate activities in diverse environments and applying international human rights standards to identify human rights abuses and and working with all sectors and stakeholders to build accountability and advocate positive change. At the Institute for Human Rights and Business Salil is senior adviser (Global Issues) and is the principal author of its recent report on corporate responsibility to respect human rights during the Covid Pandemic.

Mr. Namit Agarwal

Namit Agarwal works at the World Benchmarking Alliance as Asia Policy Lead. His role focuses on issues which advocate long-term sustainable development, finance, and corporate reporting. Namit brings over a decade's experience of influencing public policy, companies, and investors on issues of transparency, accountability, human rights and gender.

Ms. Anisha Rajapakse

Anisha Rajapakse is a senior global expert with two decades of progressive experience working at the intersection of human rights, business and international development. Till recently she was Europe-based, working with corporates, governments, international bodies promoting the business and human rights agenda towards ensuring safe jobs in dignified working conditions. Now relocated to Asia, Anisha is the Director of Stakeholder Engagement at the Fair Labour Alliance (FLA) – supporting companies to ethically recruit and manage workforces and mitigate risk of illegal and unethical exploitation.

Ms. Josephine Satyono

Josephine Satyono has more than 30 years of experience in the private sector. Prior to becoming an Executive Director of Indonesia Global Compact Network in 2015, she was Asia Pacific Tax Process Leader of General Electric (GE), a company she had worked for over 26 years before she joined a large Indonesia heavy equipment company as CSR Advisor. A passionate community service volunteer, she is an award recipient of, among others, “Jack Welch Elfun of the Year Award 2002” and “Philippe Award 2003” both are GE global awards in recognition of her outstanding volunteering and community services.

Ms. Sophia Areias

Sophia Areias is a Responsible Business Engagement Consultant at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bangkok Regional Hub. Prior to joining UNDP, Sophia was the Senior Business Integrity Programme Manager with Transparency International Cambodia, where she worked with the private sector to promote anti-corruption and responsible business. Sophia’s work in human rights has also included access to justice, pre-trial detention, and gender-based violence issues in Southeast Asia and Africa. She is a qualified lawyer in the District of Columbia and previously worked as a Policy and Legal Adviser to companies at a governmental affairs firm in California.

Ms. Cynthia Peterson

Cynthia Ann Peterson is a Principal, Social Performance in PETRONAS at the Group level. She has been in the energy industry for over a decade, with international experience in managing social risks across the lifecycle of the upstream and downstream business. She also has experience in developing sustainability strategy, and sustainability reporting. She has a post-graduate qualification in Corporate Social Responsibility.

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