Professor John G. Ruggie (1944–2021), author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, sadly passed away last month. Our Chairman, Paul Druckman, pays tribute with a few words.
I had the privilege to spend time with John Ruggie in my capacity as a Board Member of Shift for the last 4 years. Despite the seriousness and importance of his work, John was a relaxed, softly spoken, engaging man, who left his ego firmly at the door. His depth of knowledge was obviously second to none whilst his willingness to listen helped cement a unanimous personal and professional respect from those who knew him.
There was, of course, much more to John than the protect, respect and remedy framework, and the Guiding Principles which followed. Go back further and you’ll also find his hand in the millennium development goals, a precursor to the sustainable development goals. It was in the context of business and human rights that I met John, and without his work and that of Team Ruggie at Shift, much of the work we do in the World Benchmarking Alliance would not have been possible.
Business respect for human rights is the foundation of our social transformation; underpinning and enabling all of the systems transformations which need to happen to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Without John’s work and the global legitimacy of the UNGPs, we would not have been able to place such a focus on ensuring that no one is left behind in the transition to sustainable ways of living and doing business. The UNGPs provide a critical step in setting out the responsibilities of companies and is the north star for us when we assess companies on their approach to respecting human rights.
Integrating human rights into all WBA benchmark rankings, we will continue to support John’s legacy. While he probably wouldn’t want it to be called that, he has played, and Team Ruggie at Shift will continue to play, a significant part in the ongoing efforts to ensure companies identify, assess, manage and, where relevant, remedy the impacts they have on people.
John’s work has enabled us to bridge the concepts of human rights, sustainable development and corporate responsibility. For this, in particular, we at the WBA commemorate him. But, like all of us, he was a human first, and our thoughts are with his family, as well as those who he personally inspired on his journey.