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Sessions and
Workshops

BSR20 is for the business leaders who are devoting each day to building a better world. Our content will help you stay ahead of the curve by addressing the global challenges we face today.

Additional sessions and final schedule will be posted shortly. All sessions and speakers are subject to change.

A Human Rights-Respecting, Climate-Resilient Future

The climate crisis is playing an increasingly large role in shaping our future, with a growing impact on human rights. Water scarcity, wildfires, extreme weather, and rising sea levels are already disproportionately affecting vulnerable and disenfranchised populations globally, resulting in loss of livelihoods, forcing migration, and increasing the likelihood of conflict. However, responses to human rights and climate change risks continue to be siloed. Join us to explore this nexus through the lens of future scenarios to bring climate and human rights efforts closer together and inform a rights-respecting, climate-resilient future.

Are You a Surveillance Capitalist?

Increasingly, all industries are involved in what is known as “surveillance capitalism,” a new iteration of our economic system in which business value is derived from the predictive insights gleaned from applying artificial intelligence (AI) to customer data and novel data sources. While this opens up potential new business models, it also has serious implications for the privacy and human rights of consumers. In this session, we will introduce the concept of surveillance capitalism and hear from companies in different industries about how they work to avoid causing harm when collecting and transferring customer data, carrying out targeted advertising, and building in insights powered by AI and IoT devices.

Building Resilience: From Theory to Action

Our globally interconnected system is experiencing a growing number of stresses and shocks—from climate disruption, to geopolitical volatility, to COVID-19. What can companies do to develop a more holistic understanding of the risks they face and develop strategies and collaborations to build the resilience of their businesses and the communities in which they operate? Join us for a discussion, led by company leaders and experts focused on turning resilience theory into robust strategy and action, on how to build climate resilience across your global value chain, how to stress-test strategies against different possible futures, and opportunities for collaboration with partners.

The Business Role in Creating a 21st-Century Social Contract

The social contract—the relationship between individuals and institutions—needs an overhaul. For much of the second half of the 20th century, the roles and responsibilities of business, government, civil society, and people remained relatively constant and provided vital protections to support healthy and productive lives. But today, people are relying on strained protection systems that fail to keep up with our 21st-century realities. And there is increasing attention on the need to align the purpose of business with essential societal needs, such as the transition to a net-zero economy; a digital economy that sustains jobs, livelihoods, and economic fairness; and the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Join us to learn more about how your company can act, enable, and influence to create a social contract that enables not only economic security and mobility, but also the creation of long-term value, an agile 21st-century workforce, and an environment in which innovative products, services, and business models can flourish.

The Business Voice in a Time of Turmoil

This year, dozens of companies have issued statements regarding the murder of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these statements received backlash, being perceived as insincere, opportunistic, or inconsistent with their actual behavior. Companies will continue to feel compelled to speak up about important causes, but how can they do so in credible ways that have genuine impact and go beyond performative gestures? What tradeoffs do they have to consider when using their voice on hot-button issues? Join us to hear from business leaders how their companies have been able to meet the moment.

The Convergence of Equity and Sustainability Meet

Our vision of sustainable business should encompass diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), yet inside companies, sustainability and DEI are often led by two separate teams with two distinct agendas. The many expressions of support for racial justice from companies following the murder of George Floyd made clear the need for more sustained action over time, but also revealed the disconnect that exists inside companies among multiple social, economic, and human rights topics. How can companies take more strategic and integrated approaches that bring together disparate elements of sustainable business? How can DEI, sustainability, human rights, and other teams work more closely together on a shared, urgent, and ambitious agenda?        

Creating a Zero-Emissions Freight Transport System by 2030

The global freight transport system must have zero-emissions solutions in place by 2030 to reach global climate goals by 2050. And to get there, we need innovative solutions and radical collaboration, enabling financial mechanisms and strong political will, to unlock decarbonization pathways throughout the freight transport value chain. Join us for key learnings and opportunities to drive significant progress collectively, as more and more brands are realizing the significance of their transport footprint and becoming willing partners supporting the industry shift.

Ethical Technology Use in the COVID Era

The topic of human rights and technology use has been growing in importance over the years, but new use cases for contact tracing and workplace monitoring during COVID-19 present significant new questions about how to balance health and safety with privacy and human rights standards. How do we use technology ethically, and what are the reasonable lines to draw between public health benefits and human rights violations? Join us to learn lessons from companies that are developing and deploying these technologies and now non-tech companies should be engaged in the conversation.

Focusing on Long-Term Goals amidst Unprecedented Uncertainty

2020 has presented sustainability teams with a seemingly unending series of urgent challenges and daily turmoil. Nevertheless, the coming decade necessitates bold corporate action across a range of pressing global challenges—the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement both have major milestones to hit by 2030. This session will provide lessons learned and practical advice from practitioners on how they stay focused on long-term goals and build creative new paths to achieve them amidst unprecedented uncertainty.

From the Future: A Look Back at Supply Chain Risk and Resilience after COVID-19

It’s October 21, 2030. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that hit over 10 years ago was one of the first significant crises we faced at the beginning of the decade, majorly impacting global supply chains. Other crises followed, highlighting existing risks and bringing new ones to light: risks related to procurement, finance, suppliers, logistics, and workforces. Throughout the decade, business demonstrated its ability to become better prepared, to anticipate the unexpected, and to radically shift to mitigate risk and become more resilient. Throughout this unique, futures-thinking exercise, we will illustrate how it’s possible for business to achieve significant progress across supply chains and other business practices in the 2020s, despite crises that may lie ahead.

How Can Investors Better Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

For years, companies have been asked to disclose data on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the board or management levels. But while some companies have reported on diversity and even adopted goals, what progress have companies actually made on advancing DEI at all cohort levels, from the board down throughout the whole workforce? In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, learn how investors and corporates can raise the bar on advancing DEI to push for more disclosure and action to create change across the board. 

How Critical Is Collaboration During a Crisis?

The last several years have seen the formation of many industry and cross-industry collaborations dedicated to solving big global challenges, such as the Fashion Pact, CE 100, or BSR’s own Maritime Anti-Corruption Network. In a world re-shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, how important is collaboration to driving progress on near-term and long-term goals? What happens when long-term system change is overridden by immediate disruption and downturn, such as that faced in the fashion industry? This panel will share insights on challenges that initiatives and companies are currently facing and discuss solutions, including making the business case, sharpening impact, and rationalizing partnerships and solutions.

How Has 2020 Changed the Way We Think about Sustainability?

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, rumors started that sustainability efforts would recede due to constrained budgets, reduced government and investor pressure, potential layoffs and existential threats to entire sectors, and a lack of capacity to focus on the long term with such immediate and urgent competing priorities. Yet the opposite seems to be unfolding: Companies are meeting the moment and maintaining their commitments to sustainability, and the pandemic has further highlighted the need for business to lead in creating lasting systemic change. Learn more about how companies and sectors are advancing sustainability efforts despite resource constraints and share expectations for how that will proceed as we move toward 2021.

Lessons from the Current Public Health Crisis to Help Prepare for the Next

Many companies were aware before the COVID-19 pandemic hit that a global pandemic arising from animal-human contact could happen—and that it was likely. Yet few companies were prepared with action plans when the real crisis unfolded. What lessons are we learning from this pandemic that can help us better prepare for the next public health crisis? What opportunities did businesses find to be resilient, and where did they face the greatest challenges? How might businesses, together with policymakers and civil society, learn from the current crisis to take preventive steps and avert or mitigate future disasters?

Navigating and Harmonizing Sustainability Reporting Frameworks

There is often reference made to the “acronym soup” of reporting initiatives: GRI, SASB, IIRC, CDP, TCFD, CRD, and more. While each has its purpose or intended audience, there remains limited understanding on how to integrate multiple frameworks in a single report or set of complementary disclosures. This session will feature perspectives on this issue from reporting initiatives and explore what bottom-up harmonization of the frameworks looks like in practice from the report preparer’s point of view.

The Nexus of Climate and Health: Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste

For the first time in our lifetime, the entire global community is impacted by the same grave threat of COVID-19. The solidarity of this moment has led many to rise to the occasion in unprecedented fashion—governments have committed trillions to support industries and jobs affected by the global shutdown, and companies and philanthropists have directed billions toward finding therapeutics and supporting vulnerable frontline workers. This response must also be applied to the climate crisis. There is evidence that the growing threat of climate change will increase the frequency and severity of pandemics, and that the impact of these crises will disproportionately fall on poor and minority communities—further deepening economic inequality that is at the root of social unrest. In this session, we will explore the lessons learned from COVID-19 and how rebuilding efforts can and must consider a just transition to a green economy.

On the Horizon: A Workshop on Emerging Issues for Business

Every day during the COVID-19 crisis, new issues are emerging in areas such as gender, privacy, intergenerational conflict, social contract experiments, renewable energy, automation, and economic growth. In this special interactive online workshop, we will take a deep dive into a set of 4-5 of these emerging issues. After learning more about these issues that are unfolding in front of us, we will break into small groups to examine what they might mean for business and how sustainability teams can help their companies navigate them.

Police Reform and the Role of Business

Business interacts with the police and the criminal justice system in a variety of ways—as a provider of products and services, by stationing police and private security firms on company premises, or by providing data to law enforcement agencies during investigations. Business is also connected to the criminal justice system at the public policy level, as both shape the community context in which we all live. In theory, the role of the police and the criminal justice system is to protect human rights, but all too often the system discriminates against and harms the rights of people in BIPOC communities. Join us to explore what role business should play in advocating for police reform, what responsibilities business holds, and what leverage it has to advocate for change.

The Power of Data to Create and Break Gender Stereotypes

The gender data gap is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and it has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives. In fact, most workplace and supply chain management systems do not include a gender lens to account for women’s unique needs and rights, which prevents women from thriving in or even entering the supply chain workforce. Mainstreaming gender-sensitive dimensions across the different policies and processes is essential to promote gender equality and advance women across supply chains. In this session, we will explore how the lack of gender data leads to gaps in knowledge and solutions across product development, workplaces, global supply chains, and customer engagement.

Rethinking Growth and Prosperity during Global Crises

The pursuit of ever-greater economic growth has failed to deliver on the promise of prosperity for all, while also pushing our planet beyond capacity. The dual crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice, especially in the U.S., have laid bare deep inequalities and highlighted the extreme vulnerability of large portions of the working class, despite years of increased productivity and economic growth. Meanwhile, a near complete pause of business for months resulted in the greatest environmental gains since World War II, while also exposing how far we still are from meeting critical targets. Panelists from government, academia, and the private sector will discuss the paths forward, how we can rethink the traditional link between growth and prosperity, and implications in the face of climate change, persistent inequality, and now, massive unemployment.

Rise Up: Activism in the Decisive Decade

Amid increasing calls from employees and other stakeholders for companies to take a more active stance on the most concerning issues of today—from the climate crisis to social and racial justice—companies face both complex challenges and new opportunities to achieve meaningful and durable impact aligned with their business and sustainability goals. In this session, a select group of corporate leaders and key stakeholders will discuss lessons learned and share insights on how best to navigate this difficult, exciting, and increasingly indispensable space.

Scenario-Planning the Future of Climate Action and Policy

Climate action and policy do not take place in a vacuum, but rather are profoundly influenced by external factors like geopolitics, the global economy, societal trends, and technological disruption. Join us to explore different scenarios for how global trends and emerging issues are likely to reshape climate action and policy and learn how to navigate uncertainty in our profoundly disruptive times.

Sustainability in the Boardroom: Perception vs. Reality

ESG is quickly rising on board agendas. Many major corporations now have dedicated ESG committees on their boards, are adding to their ESG skillsets, and are holding executive leadership accountable for ESG performance. But does this perception of increased ESG integration match up to reality? In this session, we will hear from current board members of major corporations as well as external groups pushing for more ESG board integration. They will provide their own perspectives on what really happens on ESG inside the boardroom and how it currently matches up with stakeholder expectations.

Sustainability Trends in the Changing Chinese Market

As an important manufacturing base and global economic power, China also demonstrates rapid domestic market growth. Most recently, its e-commerce market has quickly emerged and expanded, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While traditional retail faces immense challenges, online shopping has expanded beyond key urban markets and is now reaching rural areas, and purchasing platforms now connect consumers directly to producers. Such change adds new dynamics to the sustainability agenda in China. While the Chinese government continues to lead by pushing clean energy, environmental protections, and social well-being, consumers are also demanding better quality and safer products. In this session, key business leaders and stakeholders will facilitate a dialogue to better understand how Chinese government regulations and laws will steer the sustainability direction, to what extent consumer preference will impact market performance, and how traceability platforms can push a new perspective on sustainability within the country.

The New Era of ESG Investing

ESG investing has gone from niche to norm, stirring up powerful implications for the convergence of corporate sustainability and investor relations. Join us as we examine the current ESG landscape and what sustainability and investor relations teams should focus on to navigate evolutions in areas like data-gathering, frameworks, and more. We will also take a deeper dive into where sustainability teams still need to look beyond investors toward emerging issues.

Unbiasing Human Rights Due Diligence: The Case for Inclusive Approaches

As we enter the decisive decade of the 2020s, the global inequality crisis is coming to light, where fair opportunities and justice are not guaranteed on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. It is time to make human rights due diligence reflective of the way vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected—and intersectionality is key. How can businesses take an inclusive approach in human rights due diligence and use methodologies that help identify impacts specific and intersectional to different groups of rightsholders? This session will showcase how inclusive due diligence can and should be integrated into existing human rights methodologies—from context setting, to rightsholder identification, to data collection and rightsholder engagement strategies—to build inclusive strategies and transformative remedy.

What Should the Unicorns of the 21st Century Look Like?

In 2019, the World Economic Forum reported 326 privately held startups with a valuation of over US$1B. These “unicorns” are becoming both more prevalent than their mythical namesake suggests and taking on a bigger role in reshaping business models and industry norms: The gig economy is redefining our concept of work, the sharing economy is shifting possibilities for asset owners, and artificial intelligence is changing how we experience the world around us. So what should the unicorns of the 21st century look like? What responsibilities should they have in society at large and in the communities where they operate? What opportunities do they have to be leaders in rolling out a modernized 21st-century social contract?

What the European Green Deal Means for Business

Since the European Commission unveiled its Action Plan on Sustainable Finance in May 2018, significant progress has been made to set standards and benchmarks that will clarify what is meant by green activities and improvements to reporting. Whether your company is based in Europe or has global operations, this session will provide you with an update on EU legislation and its implications for business.


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Great job convening so many like-minded people that actually want to drive sustainability through corporate responsibility into business strategy.

—BSR Conference 2018 Participant


Sponsors

Convening Sponsor

Verizon

Supporting Sponsors

AB InBev The Coca-Cola Company Flex Ltd. Google, Inc. Microsoft Corporation The Walt Disney Company

Marketing and Media Sponsor

3BL Media