During a plenary session at PRI in Person, the world’s leading responsible investment conference being held this year in Barcelona, UNI Global Union’s Senior Investor Engagement Advisor Lisa Nathan made a strong case for investors to promote labour rights in their owned companies from both a human rights and financial standpoint.
During the panel discussion, ‘Advancing investor action on human rights and social issues’, Nathan addressed key topics such as using the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to identify, prevent and mitigate risks; building investor support for human rights due diligence; and addressing human rights and social issues systemically.
Investor action to secure freedom of association and collective bargaining is urgently needed, she argued, as workers’ rights globally are in crisis, with violations at a nine-year high. These breeches of labour rights not only drive conditions down for working people, but they also create regulatory, operational and reputational risks at companies like Amazon. Declining trade union density is correlated with increasing inequality as well as political and economic instability, creating systemic risks for our economy as a whole.
“The crisis we face regarding fundamental labour rights is particularly critical. Freedom of association and collective bargaining are enabling rights because when workers are empowered through being in a trade union, they can then protect their other human rights, such as health and safety and gender and racial equality,” Nathan said.
“Through their stewardship, investors can create an enabling environment where workers are able to safeguard their own human rights, in turn mitigating a whole host of human rights and material risks. . .To do this well, investor and company engagement with workers and their trade unions is essential.”
The PRI plenary comes just days after the Committee on Workers’ Capital launched a global campaign to elevate labour rights with investors. As part of the campaign kick-off, CWC released a guide for investors, ‘Shared Prosperity: The Investor Case for Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining”, which outlines investors’ human rights responsibilities and argues respecting fundamental labour rights makes good, long-term financial sense, alongside providing a roadmap of practical investor action.
UNI Global Union is a participant in the CWC effort as a member of the Network Secretariat and co-author of the report.