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Executive Perspectives

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Company Leaders Commemorate Human Rights Anniversary in Chicago

Adam Roy Gordon

30 Apr 2018

30 April 2018

Supply chains are a key opportunity for business to improve the lives of millions of people, with an estimated 80% of global trade passing through them annually.

Photo Credit: UN Global Compact USA

Adam Roy Gordon, Engagement Director at Global Compact Network USA, discusses how company leaders convened in Chicago for the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to collaborate on working to further advance human rights and supply chain sustainability. 

Seventy years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is just as powerfully relevant as it was on day one. Last month, to commemorate the anniversary of the Declaration, Global Compact Network USA’s regional meetup in Chicago convened sustainability leaders to discuss challenges around human rights and supply chain sustainability.

While the Universal Declaration has helped countless people gain greater freedoms and equality, not all the promises have been fulfilled. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), in today’s global economy:

  • 25 million people are victims of forced labor
  • 780 million working women and men are not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty
  • Over 150 million children are engaged in child labor

The further advancement of human rights is critical to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN —­ with work led through the ILO — remains on the front lines for workers’ rights, but leadership from the private sector and business is essential.

At Baker McKenzie’s office in Chicago, UN Global Compact member companies such as General Motors, Kellogg Company, S&P Global, and Johnson Controls joined Kevin Cassidy, Director of the US office of the ILO, to discuss root causes of human rights violations and decent work deficits in global supply chains. Supply chains are a key opportunity for business to improve the lives of millions of people, with an estimated 80% of global trade passing through them annually. Cassidy emphasized modern slavery, ethical recruitment, and women’s rights as priorities for the ILO, to which businesses can uniquely contribute.

Civil society representatives, including; WE Charity and Glasswing International, joined the conversation to share insights on innovative corporate partnerships and cross-cutting solutions to accelerate the rights of workers, their families and their communities.

The convening closed with a powerful discussion between UN Global Compact member company representatives Kirsten Allegri Williams of SAP Ariba and Marcy Twete of ArcelorMittal. As representatives of one of the world’s largest analytics firms and the world’s largest steel producer, respectively, the two offered an honest look at the challenges companies face when prioritizing supply chain sustainability. “Co-opetition” within industries is key to addressing human rights issues, says Twete, and as “more and more customers are asking tough questions” it is crucial for companies to have the right answers.

Global Compact Network USA is the local network chapter of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. To participate in meetings like these and learn more about the UN Global Compact and Global Compact Network USA, please visit The Network will host its next event, its flagship Annual Symposium, in New York City on June 20, and more information on that event can be found at To explore the latest resources and opportunities on supply chain sustainability and decent work, and to see why the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative, please visit


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