UConn Wins Global Recognition for Ethical Supply Chain Efforts

May 4, 2021

via UConn Today

UConn is receiving global attention for its commitment to ethical supply chain management, licensing, and branding as the winner of the 2021 International Collegiate Licensing Association Service Award.

UConn’s commitment starts at the top with its President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, which the award notes sets the framework for ethical engagement. It extends through the University’s Vendor Code of Conduct, which lays out key terms of business engagement.

In addition, UConn has developed a broad range of programs and opportunities for teaching, research, and public engagement channeled through its Business and Human Rights Initiative (BHRI), a joint endeavor between the Human Rights Institute’s Dodd Impact and the UConn School of Business that extends opportunities for learning and policy dialogue beyond the classroom and into boardrooms and the public arena.

“Part of the ‘way that UConn does business’ is to educate in this manner,” the ICLA Service Award committee noted in selecting the University for the 2021 award.

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Living Wage Factory Closing Signals a Loss of Vital Alternatives

April 9, 2021

By Shareen Hertel
and Kyle Muncy

Work in the garment industry is a first rung into the formal employment sector for many people globally. The American and British industrial revolutions were powered by textile manufacturing. Countless waves of immigrants (largely women) sewed for a living – often for low wages, longer hours, and in dangerous conditions. As modern industrial safety laws and unionization led to more humane conditions in the wealthier countries, a race-to-the-bottom ensued as low-wage/high risk, non-unionized garment manufacturing shifted “offshore” to poorer nations.

The Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic broke this mold. Founded in 2010 by Joe Bozich, a former pro-athlete who had successfully transitioned to manufacturing collegiate and sports-team-themed apparel, Alta Gracia paid two and a half times the Dominican minimum wage (i.e., workers earned roughly $2.60 an hour as opposed to the national minimum wage of roughly $1.06 an hour). A union was active on site and one of the top monitoring organizations in the labor rights field – the Workers’ Rights Consortium – had an office on site and brokered ongoing monitoring, compliance and engagement of workers and other stakeholders.

Hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the USA bought into the Alta Gracia brand, commissioning the company to sew their logos on t-shirts, hoodies, and other apparel: the faces of workers whose lives had been transformed by working for the company were on the hang-tags, and their stories were integral to the brand’s identity. Facemasks sewed by Alta Gracia workers has been given to each and every student, faculty and staff member at University of Connecticut (as well as other universities) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, the Alta Gracia factory is in danger of closing. The challenge of sustaining a viable volume of apparel orders during the pandemic is partly to blame. Shifts in ownership and resulting challenges in management and quality control have been another source of stress: the company has been sold and re-sold to three different holding companies in under a decade. But Alta Gracia’s closing is also a reflection of how little consumers pay attention to who makes our clothes. Those faces on the hang tags mattered when college students were in their bookstores, riffling through hoodies on the rack. But the online marketplace is awash in images – and the desire to “make up” for shipping costs or “save time” by buying from vendors with just-in-time delivery has meant that the price per garment is driven even lower with the click of a mouse and our distraction from the real story of the people behind the tag.

In Villa Altagracia, the small town where this company is based, the roughly 200 workers who have had jobs in the factory have been the lucky ones. Their friends and neighbors have sought to make ends meet with jobs that pay far less, or by piecing together income through part-time work or in jobs in the informal sector that are often unsafe and unregulated.

The prospect of losing Alta Gracia means losing a model of a factory that defied the race-to-the-bottom by building solidarity among people along the supply chain – including college students and university communities. Unless there’s an offer to buy the firm by investors who could bring it through the pandemic, we lose a key alternative for more socially sustainable business.

At the University of Connecticut, the Business and Human Rights Initiative has hosted events on the apparel sector and socially sustainable business in partnership with the President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, including “Protecting Rights at the End of the Line: Stakeholder Engagement in Light Manufacturing” and the “Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Rights Summit”.

For information on the Business and Human Rights Initiative at UConn, please visit https://businessandhumanrights.uconn.edu/.

For information on the President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility at UConn, please visit https://csr.uconn.edu/.

Chambers and Martin on a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for Human Rights

March 19, 2021

via Business Law Prof Blog

The University of Connecticut School of Business hosts The Business and Human Rights Initiative, which “seeks to develop and support multidisciplinary and engaged research, education, and public outreach at the intersection of business and human rights.” Professor Stephen Park, Director of the Business and Human Rights Initiative, invited me to be a discussant at the most recent meeting of the Initiative’s workshop series. The workshop focused on Rachel Chambers’ and Jena Martin’s excellent paper, A Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for Human Rights.

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Industry experts discuss the intersection of business and human rights in the college space

November 30, 2020

via The Daily Campus

With its athletic and academic programs garnering national acclaim, the University of Connecticut boasts far-reaching influence which in turn, solicits closer scrutiny by the greater public. When the school’s licensed apparel came under fire in 2005 for unethical sourcing, members of the community were called upon to serve on a task force for sweatshirt labor, eventually giving rise to the current President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (PCCSR). With pressure from UConn’s heavily active Human Rights Institute and the collegiate community, the university seeks to remain socially responsible in its business endeavors with policies such as the Vendor Code of Conduct and continuous collaboration with peer institutes and organizations. On Nov. 20, the school’s Business and Human Rights Initiative hosted a roundtable on collegiate sourcing addressing those concerns in the current economic climate and in the face of COVID-19, featuring representatives from apparel manufacturers and those involved in corporate social responsibility in college spaces and beyond.

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Human Rights, Business Practices — and a Generation Ready to Make a Difference

October 6, 2020

via UConn Business

During the 10 years that Rachel Chambers worked as a barrister, practicing employment and discrimination law in the British courts, she occasionally wore formal attire: a full-length robe and a white, horsehair wig.

No wig is required in her role today as a UConn postdoctoral fellow and professor, where her international legal experiences, recent work for the United Nations, and passion for social justice prepared her to teach BLAW 3252: “Corporate Social Impact and Responsibility.”

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Waterbury Hosts Business and Human Rights Lecture Series

March 12, 2019

via UConn School of Business

The series is made possible by a gift from the David and Joan Reed Faculty Fellowship, which this year awarded the honor to Shareen Hertel, a professor of political science, member of the steering committee for the UConn Business & Human Rights Institute, and a human rights advocate. Hertel used the award, one of the top teaching honors bestowed on UConn faculty, to create the lecture series.

“Every day, each of us makes scores of decisions about what to eat, wear and use—yet we don’t often have the chance to stop and reflect on who made those products or how our consumption choices affect the environment and the broader world around us,” said Hertel.

The lecture series titled “Politics and Human Rights in Global Supply Chains” gives students and faculty the chance to hear from experts who have grappled with managing global supply chains for decades, she said.

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Press Release: Shareen Hertel Hosts Reed Fellowship Lecture Series

February 15, 2019

Business and Human Rights Initiative
University of Connecticut
Press Release

STORRS, CT (February 15, 2019) – Professor Shareen Hertel (Political Science and Human Rights) has been awarded the David and Joan Reed Faculty Fellowship, one of the top teaching honors at the University of Connecticut. As the Reed Faculty Fellow, Hertel is hosting a lecture series Politics and Human Rights in the Global Supply Chain at UConn’s Waterbury campus, which is co-sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and the Center of Excellence for Teaching (CETL) at UConn.

Three lectures are slated for the spring 2019 semester, centered around the themes of global supply chain management, business ethics and compliance, and innovative design for social and environmental sustainability:

  • The first lecture, “Respect for Human Rights: An Imperative that Makes Good Business Sense”, on Wednesday, February 20, features Mark Nordstrom, former Senior Counsel-Labor and Employment Law at GE.
  • On Wednesday, March 13, Bob Werner, formerly of Timex and current Advisory Board Chair of UConn’s Center for International Business and Education Research (CIBER), will deliver a talk “Business and Human Rights: The View From the Field”.
  • Finally, on Wednesday, April 10, Deborah Leipziger, Senior Fellow in Social Innovation at the Lewis Institute, Babson College, will present “Human Rights and Business: Creating a Lexicon and Blueprint for Transformation”.

Nordstrom and Leipziger have been key contributors to the Business and Human Rights Initiative at UConn. In March 2017, Nordstrom participated in the Roundtable on Business and Human Rights. The following October, Nordstrom and Leipziger served as panelists for the Initiative’s conference on Stakeholder Engagement in Light Manufacturing, for which Leipziger authored the white paper.

Hertel is a member of the Initiative’s steering committee and has undertaken research on stakeholder dialogue regimes with the support of the Initiative.

The Reed Fellow Lecture Series reflects the ongoing engagement of the Initiative’s faculty members in the field of business and human rights. The series is free and open to the public but advance registration is required. Click here to register for the lectures. All lectures will be held at UConn’s Waterbury campus main building, rooms 113-119. For more information, call the OLLI office at 203-236-9924/9925 or email osher@uconn.edu.

For more information on UConn’s Business and Human Rights Initiative, please visit: https://businessandhumanrights.uconn.edu/.

Investors Won’t Tolerate Corporate Misdeeds, Inhumanity

September 28, 2018

via UConn School of Business

Investment titan Amy Domini, widely considered a leading pioneer in socially responsible investing, came to UConn and shared what can only be described as good news.

Investor demands have radically changed the way corporations do business, and it is nearly impossible to find a major company today that isn’t re-examining or inventing policies that address human rights and environmental protection, she said.

“I don’t believe that companies have the right to make money from the destruction of our future,” she said in a keynote address titled, “How Responsible Investors Have Enabled Business to be a Solution to Human Suffering.”

The program was organized and hosted by the Business and Human Rights Initiative, of which the School of Business is a partner. Her keynote address kicked off a two-day symposium, which attracted leading scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss the “human face of finance.”

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