“Protecting Rights at the End of the Line:
Stakeholder Engagement in Light Manufacturing”
Conference to be hosted on October 5 and 6, 2017 (University of Connecticut, Storrs)
Program description by Prof. Shareen Hertel
Every day, we make millions of consumption decisions. We decide what to eat, what to wear, or what to use. No matter how small or large our purchase, that good or service we consume took human effort and natural resources to grow, to build, to design, to transport, or to market.
Since the 1990s, human rights advocates, business leaders, academics, and consumers alike have become more attuned to the potential abuse of workers who make the products we use, along with issues of environmental sustainability. Businesses have developed more sophisticated systems for preventing “sweatshop” labor in their supply chains, along with improvements in the environmental sustainability of product design, production and end-use.
Along with these changes in the global marketplace have come changes in human rights theory and practice. These include the emergence of a “business and human rights” set of rules, standards and institutions pioneered through the United Nations system in the early 2000s and taken up by global development banks, leading-edge companies, and advocacy organizations worldwide over the past five years.
The idea that people in communities affected by a company’s production activities (i.e., its stakeholders) have the right to remedy if they are harmed by a company’s activity—even if they don’t personally work on a farm or a factory where goods are produced—is integral to new thinking on business and human rights. Together, businesses, governments and civil society are supposed to be jointly responsible for shaping the remedies available to people harmed in the course of business activity, wherever it takes place.
Yet we still lack effective ways to engage community members concretely in identifying not only risk but also potential ways that companies can add social value in the communities where they operate globally. The consultation that does take place between companies and stakeholders typically happens in extractive industries (such as oil, gas and mining) —not in places where light manufacturing is done around the world. Consultations often happen when and where it’s most convenient for companies, not for community members. Nor are the types of remedies proposed necessarily well integrated with existing government programs. Nor are those remedies offered always helpful to community members.
Come join us for a two-day conference that will explore the challenges of stakeholder engagement along with potential areas of innovation. Hosted by UConn’s Business and Human Rights Initiative (a partnership of the Human Rights Institute, the School of Business, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center), this event will bring together academics, policy experts, and business leaders from across the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America to share information on real world problems and corresponding strategies for improving the lives of people behind the tags on your clothing and beyond the factory floor, who live and work in communities where the things we use every day are made.
For more information and to register, please see: http://businessandhumanrights.uconn.edu/events/stakeholder-engagement/