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21 Sep 2021

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights

In Memory of John G. Ruggie: Tribute by ICCR and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights

21 September 2021

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights join the business and human rights community in mourning the passing of Professor John Ruggie, the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). In crafting the UNGPs, Professor Ruggie and his team forever changed how companies and their investors identify, mitigate and remediate human rights risks in global supply chains leaving a lasting legacy that will impact the lives of millions. 

Professor Ruggie worked closely with ICCR during the rollout of the UNGPs as our members were among the first to file shareholder proposals with dozens of companies across all sectors advocating the adoption of the corporate policies and practices the UNGPs espouse, including the adoption of human rights policies and human rights impact assessments which are core tenets of its human rights due diligence process. Professor Ruggie spoke at multiple ICCR member gatherings and events including keynoting the May 2018 launch of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. The Investor Alliance is an ICCR investor initiative designed to augment the number of investors engaging companies on the UNGPs, and to embedding its due diligence process into corporate and investor actions.

Said Anita Dorett, Director of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, "The Investor Alliance's work to deeply embed the responsibility to respect human rights through the uptake of the UNGPs into the core of business and investor decision-making will continue in honor of John's remarkable contributions and legacy."

At the 5th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, Professor Ruggie challenged companies to do more to improve wages and working conditions in their global supply chains. According to Professor Ruggie, “A concerted effort by business to respect the human rights of workers in their global value chains would have two transformative effects. By helping to ensure that people are paid a living wage, that men and women workers are treated with equal dignity and provided equal opportunity, that their rights to organize and bargain collectively are respected, their health and safety on the job and in their communities protected, and so on, business would uplift those people’s situation significantly. It would enable them to lead decent lives and contribute to their own wellbeing as well as their country’s development—while also increasing the global consumer base of business.” 

David Schilling, ICCR’s Sr. Program Director for Human Rights said, “John was so easy to work with.  In crafting the UNGPs, he established multiple stakeholder engagement opportunities to get input from all stakeholders during the six-year development of the UNGPs and it was a privilege and a pleasure to participate in a number of these sessions led by John and his capable team. I had gotten to know John when he was on the faculty of Columbia and headed the School of International Public Affairs, but it was his transformative work on the UNGPs where I saw his vision, skill, and persistence change the field of business and human rights. We owe John Ruggie a huge debt, and this can be fulfilled by fully implementing the principles and practical applications for the State Duty to Protect, the Corporate Responsibility to Respect and Access to Remedy, and by engaging thousands of stakeholders in the process.” 

We extend our deepest condolences to his wife and family.  As his colleagues at Shift, Caroline Rees, and Rachel Davis, said so well: "A light has gone out in the world. More than a light. John was a beaming beacon for so many of us who had the privilege to know him, to work with him, to learn from him, to laugh with him, to love him."  

A big gap is created by his death and so much is left to be done, but we are committed to “traveling the difficult global terrain” and our work to fully embed the UNGPs into corporate and investor actions will continue in John Ruggie’s name.