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28 Sep 2021

Pillar Two

In Memory of John G. Ruggie: Tribute by Pillar Two

28 September 2021

Pillar Two would like to acknowledge the very sad news of the passing of Professor John Ruggie.

Professor Ruggie was the author of the internationally recognised UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), unanimously endorsed by the United Nations just over 10 years ago.

While today we may take the existence of the UNGPs, the now authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing business-related human rights harm, for granted, they were not easy to achieve. Navigating opposition from all sides it would have been tempting for Professor Ruggie to water down the principles or on the other side, opt for the perfect to the very likely enemy of the good. But throughout the process Professor Ruggie remained steadfast in his commitment to principled pragmatism – closing the governance gaps that provide the permissive environment for business to harm human rights while also understanding the need to build an understanding of human rights into corporate DNA. In our experience the UNGPs have facilitated both of those aims.

There remains much work to be done, and Professor Ruggie himself has said the UNGPs are simply the end of the beginning, but the UNGPs were an incredible gift to the corporate sustainability world that provided that concrete start.

Professor Ruggie’s foresight to create a common language for all stakeholders clarifying the duties and responsibilities of states and businesses around business respect for human rights is clear to see and something to be celebrated. It our honour to work to implement them in practice and to continue to advocate for progress to help to fulfil his legacy.