Harnessing Big Data for Investor-Led ESG Standards to Improve Corporate Human Rights Practice
A Rights CoLab Project
This project engages with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) to develop and define a strengthened set of disclosure standards that investors can use to persuade companies to improve labor rights for both direct employees and supply chains. The project has two components: a data science project and an advisory board of labor rights experts (‘Expert Group’).
The data science project, carried out with the Data for Good program of the Data Science Institute of Columbia University, uses natural language processing and machine learning to identify new relationships between labor-related human rights risks and financial materiality. The Expert Group will help to inform the data project and work with SASB to incorporate relevant findings into revised standards to benefit workers while reducing reputational and legal risks for companies.
The Expert Group, which launched in early May with a three-part online strategy session, will inform SASB’s Human Capital Management Project, over the next twelve months. The Expert Group’s activities include:
• performing a gap analysis of existing SASB standards related to the human rights risks of modern slavery and associated labor risks;
• developing hypotheses on the financial materiality of modern slavery and its associated risks, which can be tested by the data science team;
• advising the data science team on data sources, keywords, and heuristics;
• assessing the findings of the data science team;
• proposing to SASB metrics drawn from the findings that ensure that their implementation is free of unintended consequences for the workers and communities most affected; and
• maximizing the leverage of civil society organizations that advocate for workers to improve corporate transparency standards and achieve workplace improvements.
Targeted outcomes are:
• improved integration of civil society concerns into SASB frameworks to make them more effective tools to hold companies accountable;
• specific improvements in SASB’s Materiality Map in reflecting risks and impacts relating to modern slavery and other human rights abuses;
• increased corporate compliance inspired by the unified voices of labor and investors advocating for labor and human rights best practices; and,
• key takeaways from the process that can be adopted by other standard-setting organizations and frameworks, including policy makers.
This project is made possible by the support of the Moving the Market Initiative, a collaboration between Humanity United, the UBS Optimus Foundation, and the Freedom Fund.
Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash