Moscow – Geneva. Russian Business and Human Rights

On November 27 – 29 2017, Russian delegation under the aegis of the UN Global Compact Russian Local Network was for the first time officially presented in business and cultural section of the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

The programme has begun back in Moscow, on the site of the leading business media holding RBC, where the Geneva Forum was announced together with the particularities of the Russian programme. The key feature of the Forum 6th session is the very presence of such programme and a thematic discussion panel, jointly organized with the Global Compact Network Switzerland. It covered a number of aspects related to business and human rights, including the ones connected to the central topic of the 2017 Forum – realizing Access to Effective Remedy.

“We were preparing for the Forum hoping that we will have a productive dialogue, which we will develop in the future”, opened the Russian-Swiss session Larisa Ovchinnikova, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Association ‘National Network of the Global Compact’. “We want to confirm the readiness of Russian business for a more concise talk on business and human rights, to present its position and experience in the human rights area and to demonstrate the objective to harmonize our commercial strategies in accordance with international sustainable development standards”.

‘Business and human rights’ is one of the most topical subjects of the international agenda, in discussion and development of which Russia plays an important role. Extent, understanding, peculiarities, forms and other aspects of business responsibility for respect of human rights are defined not only by corporate policies and strategies, but also by a system of norms and imperatives of international legislation. In this context – adaptation of international standards for business in the human rights area to a national format – Local Network of the Global Compact presented its work under the purposefully set Working Group on Human Rights and Labor Relations established and in the context of corporate practices of Russian business leaders.

During the Russian-Swiss thematic session ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a factor of business transformation for the SDGs achievement. Human rights due diligence lessons learned. Strategies. Partnerships’ there were reviewed various aspects of the overall Forum topic, such as: business engaging stakeholders on human rights issues for sustainable development; Swiss approach to business and human rights; access to human rights remedy in corporations; the National Plan of the Guiding principles on business and human rights implementation in Switzerland; local communities feedback mechanisms (including the grievance mechanism) at Nordgold’s entities in West Africa; corporate strategy of transforming cities to enhance the citizens’ (stakeholders’) rights and opportunities of Severstal; the Responsible Jewellery Council standards and their role in protecting human rights in Richemont’s worldwide supply chains; rights to health protection (helping countries of operation in protecting population against epidemic threats) and to healthy environment (a climate partnership initiative) in the context of UC ‘Rusal’’s activities; breakthrough ideas with regard to international grievance mechanisms; partnerships and tools for more efficient human rights problem-soving in the context of Sakhalin Energy corporate practices and an expert review on the Guiding principles on business and human rights with regard to Russian legislation.

Cultural programme of the Russian delegation included a photo exhibition ‘Breathtaking Russia’ and an inclusive performance ‘I dance’, engaging children and adults with Down syndrome.  “It was crucial for us to introduce our personal, emotional attitude to the topic: that is why out of a variety of options we chose the ones that, in our opinion, are able to demonstrate our heartfelt readiness for dialogue and cooperation, as well as the ones that reflect the systematic approach to supporting volunteer and charitable projects, taken by responsible Russian business”, commented the organizers.

The photo  exhibition presents the works of the participants, finalists and winners of all-Russian photo contests (such important ones as ‘Best of Russia’ (WINZAVOD Centre for Contemporary Art with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation), ‘The most beautiful country’ (Russian Geographical Society), ‘Russian wildlife’ (National Geographic), ‘Golden Turtle’(with the support of the Federation Assembly of the Russian Federation), as well as Photoforum, Wild Nature of Siberia, 35Photo Awards, and etc. These are unique photo projects for professionals and amateurs, as well as photo galleries covering all regions of the country.

For the express purpose of the Forum in Geneva, Russian professional travel photographers and travelers, known for their magnificent photos of wildlife, the underwater world, expeditions, the brightest moments of our diverse planet, selected some of their best works and compile them in a collection with the name ‘Breathtaking Russia’.

The inclusive performance ‘I Dance’ was the first offline event of the ‘InterAction’ project – a young Russian volunteer movement aimed at destroying prejudices against people with Down syndrome, creating a tolerant social environment in which everyone can feel full, bright and free, and expanding opportunities for development, participation in the life of society and the professional relevance of people with developmental characteristics. Engaging people with Down syndrome to its creative initiatives, ‘InterAction’ produces non special artistic products designed for a wide audience. As a result, artists with Down syndrome get the opportunity of selfactualizing, and society – of learning to accept and understand such people through the shortest way to a person’s soul – art.

Inclusion is still a very poorly developed concept in Russia, and social art does not have a wide audience yet or attract many viewers who have anything to do with the ‘problem’. Responsible Russian business sets the task of promoting the development of inclusive philosophy in the country in different ways. In this connection, the Russian network of the UN Global Compact highlights such projects, which are of enormous importance for entire social groups.

For society and the state, their value lies in the development of successful forms of socialization of people with special health care needs, in real observance and expansion of human rights to a decent life, which provides opportunities for education, creativity and labor, as well as in norms of humane and respectful attitude to all people without any exception or breakdown by health categories.

It is important for responsible companies, supporting such projects, that they allow implementing a systematic approach to charity, provide tools for measuring their effectiveness, have short-term and long-term development prospects. In addition, they meet the relevant requirements of global initiatives and programs that identify the best practices of business leaders in the field of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, including the Sustainable Development Goals, to achieve which business is meant to play a key role.

Participating in the Forum’s cultural programme allowed the performers showing their talents and skills of professional actors and gaining greater self-confidence. Without doubts it has also been one of the brightest impressions of their lives. For the ‘InterAction’ project it has been a great step forward towards carrying out of its mission of the widest dissemination of information on true capabilities of people with mental health peculiarities, towards humane and relevant public attitude to people with Down syndrome.

Russian delegation perceives its participation in the Forum not as a result, but as a stage, another step towards developing more significant international cooperation in the field of sustainable development. Therefore, in addition to the exchange of experience and expert discussion, Russian delegation attended the School of Sustainable Development SUMAS signing the Cooperation Agreement on sustainable development.

Russian Global Compact Network thanks heartily for their support and help colleagues from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Swiss Embassy in Russia, official partners of the Russian programme Severstal and Nordgold, and also providing support Sakhalin Energy and UC ‘Rusal’. Joint preparation for the Forum has become an example of engaged cooperation for common values of humanism, peace and human rights.

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The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is the global platform for yearly stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper to practice. The UN Human Rights Council, under paragraph 12 of its resolution 17/4, established the Forum in 2011 to serve as a key global platform for stakeholders to ”discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights.” It is guided by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The UN Forum is the world's largest annual gathering on business and human rights presenting unique dialogue space for its participants from government, business, community groups and civil society, law firms, investor organisations, UN bodies, national human rights institutions, trade unions, academia and the media. 

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Message of the Russian delegation to Forum participants

Russia is amazing, boundless, great, kind, different and very attractive…

We love her, our homeland, our country. Loving your motherland does not mean screaming out patriotic slogans and refusing to see the difficulties and contradictions. To love your motherland is to cheer up for her – with all your soul, to be concerned about her – with all your heart. So, it means to devote her your time, work, creativity, and dreams. So, it means to strive for a dialogue

with those who are moving forward, who are acting for the sake of a better future. To go together in the name of common values of humanism, peace, and human rights. We are responsible Russian business. And we know for sure that the financial success factors can not be the only guide to the future of Russia, to a better future for the whole world.

We are aware of our environmental, social, moral and ethical obligations, our duty to humanity and society. We see our transformative role in shaping a sustainable future. We do not separate ourselves from society, calling its representatives consumers, but we find and create common values, calling representatives of the society stakeholders, our stakeholders.

We transform our business thinking, introduce international principles on human rights, labor relations, environmental and climate protection, anti-corruption, responsible procurement and supply chain, responsible finance and investment, non-financial reporting and more global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in our commercial strategies. Inside the SDGs there are 17 goals and 169 targets, in achieving each of which Russian business can and must play a significant role. We want and are ready to discuss our growth points in this regard, build up competencies in the field of sustainable development by sharing experience with colleagues and partners from different countries.

Therefore, today we are in Geneva and we will be very happy with friendly support and communication. In the days of the Forum, we will partially limit the professional (but not personal!) communication to the topic of ‘business and human rights’, which gained a global status a few years ago. Human rights segment, which in itself has a very broad sounding within the framework of the United Nations activities, has acquired certain independence. This is very revealing and

confirms that the responsibility of the private sector for the planet sustainable development and the wellbeing of people is being defined more and more clearly today. Business is seen both as a driver of progress, and as the main bearer of responsibility for the negative consequences of the civilization development, which is fair. Just through the aspect of human rights alone we can see and discuss the multifaceted approach enclosed in the philosophy of responsible business.

Good way to go, as we say in Russia!

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Key participants of the Russian-Swiss session:

Oleg Basaleev, Head of Sustainability, Nordgold

Yuriy Blagov, Director, PwC Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, St. Petersburg University

Alexei Borisov, Deputy Chairman of the United Nations Association of Russia, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Federation of United Nations Associations

Alexey Borodavkin, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva

Sergei Chestnoy, Advisor to CEO, RUSAL

Alexander Ermolenko, Partner of FBK Legal (FBK Grant Tornton)

Rémy Friedmann, Senior Advisor, Desk Human Security and Business

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA, Human Security Division Deputy Head, Human Rights Policy Section

Natalia Gonchar, Head of Social Activities, Sakhalin Energy

Antonio Hautle, Senior Programme Leader & Network Representative, Global Compact Network Switzerland

Matthew Kilgarriff, Secretary, Compagnie Financière Richemont SA

Ivana Modena, President, Sustainability Management School SUMAS

Larisa Ovchinnikova, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Association ‘National Network of the Global Compact’, Managing Director of the Department for Institutional Development, Vnesheconombank

Dante Pesce, Member of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Natalia Poppel, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Brand Management, Severstal

Rolf Schwery, founder and Executive Director of SCHWERY CONSULTING

Vladimir Zaluzhskiy, Head of Communications and Investor Relations, Severstal

Presentation:

Bazaleev, Nordgold, Local communities’ feedback mechanisms

Blagov, Graduate School of Management SDGs

Chestnoy, RUSAL, Sustainability Human Rights practices

Ermolenko, FBK Legal, Analysis of the Guiding Principles

Gonchar, Sakhalin Energy, Human Rights integrated approach

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