John Ruggie receives A.SK Social Science Award; explores key business & human rights developments in acceptance speech

Author: John G. Ruggie, Published on: 23 October 2017

"A.SK Social Science Award 2017, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Acceptance Speech, John G. Ruggie." 14 Oct 2017 

I sense that this prize recognizes not only my academic and policy work but also the larger message that it represents: the imperative of addressing root causes of the backlash against globalization... by people who feel they have been left behind or were never touched by the benefits of globalization, and who believe they carry a disproportionate burden of the disruptive social change and inequalities it has wrought...

[In 1997]... I was given an unusual opportunity to help develop UN initiatives to [catalyze] business... to play a far greater and more positive role. We called the first initiative the Global Compact... conceived as a values-based platform with three core functions: a learning forum, an incubator for innovative initiatives, and a means to involve business in contributing to core United Nations...

[Another UN initiative was the Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights,]... [t]he foundational premise was that shaping global corporate conduct actually involves three distinct governance systems...traditional system of public law and governance, domestic and international;... system of civil governance, involving stakeholders affected by business enterprises and their representatives... [and] corporate governance... As a result, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights is now established as an international social norm. And human rights due diligence is emerging as the standard practice of how to comply with it... To date, nearly forty governments are developing or have already issued national action plans for implementing the Guiding Principles.

It is far too soon to speak of the socially embedded corporation... [b]ut it is also clear that an evolving regulatory ecosystem is emerging in the business and human rights space. The two UN initiatives, the Global Compact and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, demonstrate that change at scale is possible... Ultimately, the lesson that needs to become second nature to us all, whether politician, corporate leader or citizen, is this: there can be no viable society without a sustainable business sector, and there can be no viable business sector that does not respect and contribute to the social fabric in which it operates.

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