UNGPs 10+ Blog Series: Stakeholders and Leverage

This is the fifth in a series of blogs exploring the UNGPs 10+ roadmap through the perspectives of our partners. You can read the introduction here and view the full series here.

The fifth and sixth action items are very closely linked, as they deal with both the opportunity and the need to expand the field of those who are actively pressuring governments and corporations to enact these principles, and to leverage their influence.

The fifth action item, “More and Better Stakeholder Engagement,” speaks to the fact that not everyone who needs to have a seat at the table has been invited to do so.

Evy Peña from Centro de los Derechos del Migrante says that while migrant workers and women are among the most commonly-exploited in the private economy, neither of those groups have been substantially involved in the development of solutions.

“While it’s no surprise that businesses and governments are looking at flawed labor migration systems that undermine workers’ rights, migrant workers are often left out of conversations about labor migration. We need a human rights approach that centers the voices, experiences and priorities of migrant workers, their families and communities. Without meaningful participation from workers, especially women, any policy or protocol will fall short of ensuring respect and dignity.”

Once more stakeholders are at the table and are engaged on the issue, the question becomes how to increase their influence and turn that engagement into action, leading to the sixth action item, “More and Better Leverage to Drive Faster Change.” Those already at the table need to work to increase the influence of critical stakeholder groups like those with lived experience, but other important stakeholder groups already wield tremendous influence, like the one that includes investors, financial institutions, regulators, and those whom the roadmap refers to as other business community “shapers.”

While there has been a tremendous amount of movement in recent years towards activating investors to advocate for human rights playing a large factor in business decision-making, action has been largely limited to a the already highly-engaged. A major key to unlocking the true potential of this action item will be understanding where the rest of the field is and developing the tools needed to push them into action, according to The Investment Integration Project.

“Financial sector stakeholders are increasingly interested in understanding the interconnection between systemic social issues and investment (e.g., income inequality and modern slavery). But in an ongoing industry needs assessment around system-level investing conducted by The Investment Integration Project (TIIP), we have found that many are daunted by the idea of addressing such issues and are too overwhelmed to act. Industry efforts in the coming years must focus on breaking these big issues down into their component parts and providing stakeholders with clear, direct, concise guidance on how to act.”

As the work continues to move forward, Hugues Létourneau from the Global Unions Committee on Workers’ Capital says that one of the most influential financial sector stakeholders can actually be workers themselves, as holders of pension funds.

“A key source of savings for workers are their pension savings, which amount to over USD $35 trillion. Pension funds are large clients of global asset managers which in turn, hold sizeable ownership stakes in companies around the world. The CWC works with its global network of trade unions and pension fund trustees to convene meetings between asset managers and their pension fund clients.

In these meetings, pension fund clients hold their asset managers accountable on their responsibilities under the UNGPs, by asking them to step up their engagements with companies that undermine fundamental labour rights and thereby drive meaningful change in workers’ lives. That’s why we’ve been convening teachers, health care, construction and electrical workers to ask that workers’ capital cease to undermine workers’ rights around the globe since 2019.”

The next blog in our series will look at the final two action items in the roadmap, on the topics of tracking progress and international cooperation.