Flags from all countries outside of the UN building in Manhattan.
New York, New York: United Nations Building, February, 2015.

Dear Students, Colleagues and Friends,

Today, December 10th, we celebrate International Human Rights Day and I am very excited to use this opportunity to announce the launch of the new Human Rights & Business Initiative at the Berkeley-Haas Center for Responsible Business.  This initiative supports the CRB’s mission to develop leaders who redefine business for a sustainable future and is part of the CRB strategy to go in-depth on a select suite of important issues to drive greater impact.

Over the last few years, human rights have risen to the top of the responsible business agenda.  From poor safety standards and working conditions in global supply chains to protecting the privacy of internet users, businesses are expected to address human rights challenges in their operations and business relationships.  Today, as leading companies are responding to the challenge, successful business leaders understand their companies’ responsibility for respecting human rights and the benefits that can follow.

The Human Rights & Business Initiative, led by our new colleague Faris Natour, joins Sustainable Investment & Finance as a strategic focus area for the Center for Responsible Business.  The Initiative aims to prepare the next generation of business leaders to use the power of business to address critical human rights challenges.  We will do so through three key work streams:

1.  Teaching: We will develop courses on business and human rights for offering at the undergraduate and graduate levels and will support the incorporation of human rights teaching in more business courses at Berkeley-Haas.  We will build upon our strengths as part of UC Berkeley as this great university has so many wonderful resources dedicated to furthering human rights where we feel there is great opportunity to prosperously apply these resources to business.  Additionally, as we further grow our relationships with colleagues and initiatives across UC Berkeley, we will work to encourage the incorporation of considerations for how business can be part of the solution within human rights focused courses and activities that take place outside the walls of Berkeley-Haas.

2.  Research: We will pursue research projects that lead to actionable outcomes, shaping management practice on human rights and enabling business, investors, and civil society to better understand and address the human rights impacts of business as part of our Sustainable Products & Solutions research program.  Moreover, we intend for this Initiative to serve as a resource for our existing and ever-growing activities in Sustainable Investment & Finance whereby we plan to kick off a research program on sustainable investment and human rights this spring.

3.  Collaboration: We will provide a venue for dialogue and collaboration between business and human rights practitioners and our faculty and students.  The world’s most pressing human rights challenges are too big for any single actor to effectively address alone.  They can only be addressed through collaborative efforts between the many stakeholders and we believe we can play a significant role as a convener.

Faris
Faris Natour, Director, Human Rights & Business Initiative

Faris Natour, who joined the Center for Responsible Business this fall, will lead the Human Rights & Business Initiative.  Faris is a globally recognized leader in this field.  Faris, who is also a Lecturer at Berkeley-Haas, brings more than a dozen years of experience in human rights and business to Berkeley-Haas having led the human rights practice at Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), human rights research and advocacy at Calvert Investments, and has served as a human rights advisor to many of the world’s leading businesses.  We could not be more pleased about growing our collaboration with Faris and are so very fortunate to have him here at Berkeley-Haas.

While the CRB will continue to cultivate conversations across a wide range of issues associated with the responsible business and sustainability agendas, this Initiative represents a direction to go in-depth on a select suite of important issues for which the CRB will lend additional institutional support to help drive associated activities.  Through this focused approach, we feel that we can achieve greater impact and further raise the position of Berkeley-Haas as a leader in social impact.  As part of this, the CRB will explore how to further support the existing and ever-growing activities in Sustainable Investment & Finance and we will consider adding to the select suite of issues upon which to focus.  Care to discuss?  Let’s talk over coffee at a Coffee with the CRB.

For more information about the Human Rights & Business Initiative, or to welcome Faris to the Berkeley and Haas communities, please contact Faris at farisnatour@berkeley.edu.

Onward!!!

Robert

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