I'm excited to welcome you on a brief journey into the intersection of business, human rights, and the transformative power of data. In this blog, we'll uncover how data can emerge as a driving force in shaping accountability and transparency in the realm of human rights.

A Decade of Transformation: From Norms to Data

Cast your mind back to 2011 – a year of significant change. It marked the launch of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, setting the stage for a new global standard. These principles urged businesses to take proactive measures against the adverse impacts associated with their activities. This pivotal moment initiated what we now recognize as a decade of norms, where international organizations and governmental agencies united to encourage businesses to prioritize human rights and transparency.

Simultaneously, a parallel transformation unfolded – what I call the decade of data.

OECD countries introduced mandatory human rights disclosure regulations, steering businesses toward adopting impact assessment frameworks. These frameworks, essential to crafting a solid social and human capital strategy, continue to open doors to understanding operational footprints and fostering relationships with suppliers, customers, and partners.

A New Era: Knowledge Platforms and Metrics

Within this transformative landscape, knowledge platforms emerged as invaluable tools. They facilitated the collection and visualization of a diverse range of metrics. From event-based indicators that enabled predictive analysis to survey-based measures that tracked the evolution of at-risk populations, digital platforms became the bedrock for addressing human rights abuses with data-driven solutions.

Human Rights: A Multidisciplinary Endeavor

Human rights encompasses various disciplines – public health, international law, forensic studies, community relations, and public policy. Rooted in “social science measurement,” advocacy groups, NGOs, and multilateral organizations have primarily championed this realm. Their unwavering efforts aim to combat human rights violations in conflict zones and global supply chains.

Data: A Path to Sustainable Progress

Fast-forward to 2015, a year that marked a defining moment. The United Nations General Assembly ratified the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, heralding the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) birth. Here, businesses and investors were beckoned to assess the alignment of their practices with measurable outcomes that drive SDG attainment. The objective extended beyond compliance, emphasizing tangible impact.

Navigating the Data Landscape: Key Questions

As we navigate this landscape, pivotal questions arise:

What human rights data holds credibility and statistical significance?

Is the available data genuinely supportive of organizations striving for social sustainability?

Crucially, who benefits from the human rights data currently in use?

In essence, data is not merely a tool, but a catalyst for profound change. Metrics transcend numerical values, paving the way for a brighter global future.

My book The Impact Challenge – available in open source - further explores the intersection of data and human rights as it continues to influence the world of business and community.

About the Author

ALESSIA FALSARONE, SASB FSA, is a sustainable finance expert and a fellow of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. Her work bridges the gap between sustainability, financial innovation and risk management. A sought-after commentator for media outlets and contributor to academic programs, Ms. Falsarone is a member of high-level advisory groups that promote environmental and climate finance, including the G20 Environmental Ministerial, the London Stock Exchange, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (Value Reporting Foundation) and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. In recognition of her innovative vision for business and society, she has received an Honoree Award from the Women’s Venture Fund and the 2021 Global Leadership Award by the SheInspires Foundation in the UK.

She is an alumna of Stanford University, the MIT Sloan School of Business and Bocconi University. Ms. Falsarone holds certified director status with the National Association of Corporate Directors. An avid advocate of sustainability in business education, she has contributed to educational initiatives on the topic at the Asian University for Women, the Society of Corporate Compliance, the Swiss Sustainable Finance Initiative, the United Nations, the World Bank, Stanford University and University of Chicago, including delivering training on climate risk and green finance in Asia Pacific and Latin America.

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