Responsible Business Initiative on the Death Penalty

By Louis Linel, on 19 July 2019

Companies Are Strong Advocates for Human Rights

Economy plays a key role in society. In the lead-up to national elections, issues on employment or economic growth occupy a prominent place in most public debates and political speeches. Companies are, without a doubt, fully part of underlying social issues, when setting the location of their head office or deciding on new investments and partnerships. Their influence may be considerable, and it gives them a unique opportunity to engage political leaders, including those from the few remaining retentionist governements. However, this also requires for them to redefine what their responsibility should be with regard to ethical choices.

Companies have shared major concerns for fundamental liberties and human rights. For instance, Levi Strauss’ CEO condemned gun violence when asking customers not to carry guns in the company’s retail stores, and Disney put pressure on the State of Georgia (USA) after it engaged to amend the right to abortion. Today, commitment against the death penalty is becoming one of the main issue raised by socially responsible corporations (CSR).

According to Celia Ouellette, Founder and Director of Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, they are not isolated or temporary actions, but shape a true “organic movement”. New links are to be established between States and the private sector, such as companies that are willing to champion human rights.

An Actors Network for the Abolition of Capital Punishment

Whether it be through Chambers of commerce or trade relations abroad, private and public companies constitute a foremost network of local and international actors that may have something to say on the promotion of human rights.

Some have long involved in the human rights area, such as Lush Cosmetics and Virgin, whose representatives were invited to the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in February 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. By voicing their hope for criminal systems worldwide to better respect the right to life, they gave the abolitionist plateform a high-visibility position.

A Workshop to Strengthen Mobilization Strategies

After Celia Ouellette’s presentation to the World Coalition’s Steering Committee, members involved into a brainstorming session during which they collectively thought about new strategies to be adopted, and new actors to be reached out. Their suggestions included syndicates for employees or employers, specialized media, foundations, entrepreneurs and/or philanthropy networks, consumers’ associations, companies working in the tourism sector (in line with the campaign led in Brunei to oppose Sultan’s decision to carry out executions for same-sex intercourses), or even in trade schools (where students are entrepreneurs of tomorrow).

Such a dialogue, Celia Ouellette further explained, must involve three parties: activists, CSR-labelled companies, and States. It is nothing but part of a broad movement for a fairer global society, in compliance with Sustainable Development Goal No. 16 on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies and access to justice for all.

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