Trending towards increased corporate responsibility

A short legislative update published on the Lawyers for Better Business (L4BB) website.

France is considering changes to its civil code that would require companies to integrate the effects of their business activities on the economy, society and the environment into internal decision-making and strategy. The bill proposed by the Minister of Economy would amend the definition of business enterprises so as to require them to be managed in their higher interest, in accordance with the respect of the general economic, social and environmental interest (article 1833, text below).

Leading company law professors have proposed a similar amendment to Norwegian company law to clarify that “while companies in the aggregate may and should have profit as their core purpose this should be achieved within the overarching societal purpose of sustainable development.”

Driving change from within. A small change to company law has the potential to shift how boards of directors and top management develop business strategy. Neither of these proposals would require large companies to assume responsibility for specific impacts or externalities. Furthermore, they would not significantly curtail board powers or managerial decision-making. Instead, the changes would ask companies to consider the effects of their business decisions at the highest levels of the company and integrate those reflections into core strategy.

Increased expectations throughout Europe. The present debate about company law reform occurs against the backdrop of pushes for increased corporate responsibility across Europe. Approximately 6,000 large European companies will be required as of 2017 to report on non-financial matters relating to the environment, social and employee issues, respect for human rights, anti-corruption, bribery, and board diversity.

Movement is happening at the Member State level as well. At the end of March 2015, the French National Assembly adopted a historic bill creating a ‘duty of vigilance’ that will require certain large parent companies to oversee the actions of their subsidiaries to prevent human rights and environmental infractions.

Only two weeks earlier, Swiss parliament initially accepted a motion for an analogous proposal for mandatory human rights due diligence. In an unexpected twist, interest groups successfully pressured politicians to hold a second vote the same day, which narrowly failed. This week, a coalition of civil society partners known as the Responsible Business Initiative launched a campaign to gather the 100,000 signatures required to hold a binding Swiss referendum on the issue. Taken together, these initiatives signal a fundamental shift in our societal and legal expectations of corporate citizens.

Revisiting the purpose of the corporation. Our social enterprise law firm, Frank Bold, is contributing to this discussion through its project on the Purpose of the Corporation, which explores the question of how corporate governance and company law may ensure that a public company is governed in the best long-term interests of the business itself as well as those of its stakeholders, the broader community and the environment.

We worked with a team of international academics on a series of authoritative statements on economics, law, management and accounting. They determined that no company law system requires firms to blindly maximise profits for their shareholders to the detriment of proper risk management.

Depending on the perspective, profit is the byproduct or end result of a strong vision to create excellent products and services, not the reverse. Furthermore, boards and management have broad latitude to steer businesses towards sustainability. Yet the current mainstream focus on maximizing shareholder value — reinforced by capital markets, the rise of activist shareholders, executive pay packages tied to stock options, and policy support for ‘shareholder democracy’ — has led to a narrow, short-term focus on returns.

Revisiting the purpose of the company is critical in the wake of the financial crisis and protracted economic recovery. The proposed French Civil Code reform requiring companies to review the impact of their business activities is a strong first step.

Reprinted with permission from Lawyers for Better Business.

Lobbying for Good?

Lobbying tends to get a bad rap. The visual image it evokes is of politicians enjoying expensive wine and steak in the darkened booths of Michelin-star restaurants in DC or London. In 2012, which was a US presidential year, Google spent $18.22 million on lobbying and Microsoft doled out $8.09 million, according to Fortune, while the NRA spent $3.14 million. Everyone’s favourite radio show, This American Life, aired a great programme on the collapse of the proposed reform to American campaign financing and what that has meant for politics. But can lobbying ever achieve positive social change?

For many, corporate lobbyists are akin to Lord of the Rings’ Grima Wormtongue – quietly corrupting the ear of government with self-interest and accommodation with wrongdoing. The tobacco sector’s 50-year conspiracy to resist regulation, the chemical industry’s routine attempts to keep products of proven toxicity on the shelves and fossil fuel’s wholesale corruption of politics across the globe attest to why such a negative perception is warranted.

But there is another side to the story. […]

In the 19th century, William Lever’s creation of the Port Sunlight garden village to house his company’s workers attracted attention the world over. Lever was also an MP and in his maiden speech called for the state to have a role in the provision of pensions, and later went on to introduce a private members’ bill on the issue. John Cadbury brought chocolate to the masses, while in his spare time he campaigned against the use of young boys as chimney sweeps. Joseph Rowntree made sure that not all of the trusts he established were organised as charities (with all their attendant restrictions on politicking) as he wanted them to be able to “search out the underlying causes” of social ills and if necessary seek to “change the laws of the land.”

Today, an emerging group of pioneers has realised that the business case for corporate responsibility will never be strong enough to support an isolated business in its competition against the unscrupulous. Public policy intervention is required to change the rules and shift the bar for the allowable lowest common denominator.

[Read the full story in The Guardian.]

What Type of Lobbying is for ‘Good’?

In their article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Karl Peterson and Marc Pfitzer argued there are three different targets of lobbying for good (based on this article from the Harvard Business Review):

  1. generic social issues, which are critical to society but not immediately consequential to a company’s business;
  2. value chain social impacts, which are the footprints a company leaves behind through its normal operations; and
  3. social dimensions of competitive context, which are the external conditions (e.g., strong schools and good roads) that a company needs to succeed.

The authors suggest that companies tend to focus their CSR lobbying efforts on generic social issues but should instead be looking at reducing the impact of their value chain in terms of the impacts of their products and services. Thus, “[t]he company that pushes for improved standards can create competitive advantage for itself and safer, more environment-and consumer-friendly products and services.” I would add that we have also seen the importance of improving supply chains, particularly since the Rana garment factory fire of 2013, which require industry-wide approaches to identify root causes and develop best practices. More example, more than 150 companies have now signed onto the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which in an agreement between brands, retailers and trade unions in Bangladesh that makes independent safety inspections of 1,000 factories and public reporting on them mandatory. However, many other companies have signed onto a less stringent agreement and there is still a shortage of regulations on the overseas operations of garment companies to ensure that voluntary measures like the Accord are enforced.

Peterson and Pfitzer argue that lobbying to improve the social conditions that influence companies’ operating environments will have the highest strategic value for companies. Although social issues, like the quality of the local education system, exist out the direct business context, they have an indirect impact on a company’s success. Although a business might lobby for its own benefit, this can be compatible with the greater good. For example, Toyota which owns the ‘green’ Prius hybrid technology has called for higher global fuel economy standards that all manufacturers must meet, rather than percentage increases in the average fuel economy of each manufacturer’s vehicles, which is the preferred regulatory measure of manufacturers of less socially responsible cars that emit more pollutants.

The Role of Social Media

Given the increasing importance social media, it is of little surprise that ethical lobbyists have shifted to use Twitter, Facebook, online petitions,etc. to amplify their calls for change. Activism and lobbying efforts may be directed either at politicians, towards consumers/companies, or take a hybrid approach. For example, Fashion Revolution Day was created by Carry Somers, an ethical-trade entrepreneur, to build linkages across the fashion supply chain, from the cotton farmer to the factory seamstress to the consumer. The campaign has been supported by MPs including the UK shadow consumer minister, Stella Creasy, and Labour’s international development spokeswoman, Alison McGovern, as well as fashion insiders. But what can a social movement like Fashion Revolution Day hope to accomplish? The hashtag #InsideOut is a call for the public to wear their clothes inside out to commemorate those who died in the Bangladeshi factory fire, as well as to remind us to inquire into the origins of the clothing we purchase. The initiative has received press from major media outlets like Vogue and The Guardian. This type of initiative may raise awareness in a broader audience than would normally concern itself with supply chain management but no one is suggesting that a one-off event will singlehandedly transform sourcing in the garment industry.

Limits on Nonprofit Lobbying

One of the key barriers to socially responsible lobbying is the limits placed on the activities of non-profit organisations. In Canada, for instance, registered charities are required to act for ‘exclusively charitable purposes‘ and may lose their charitable status if they engage in political lobbying. While the intention is undoubtedly to prevent taxpayers’ contributions to ostensibly good causes being diverted to partisan political ends, the effect is to place charities at a disadvantage vis-à-vis corporate entities without similar restrictions.

An obvious case that comes to mind is climate change, where lobbyists have been active both for and against climate change measures. An analysis of 28 Standard & Poor 500 publicly traded companies showed that many of America’s largest firms have lobbied to block action on climate change or discredit climate science, despite public commitments to sustainable and green values. On the other side of the debate, corporate members of BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) testified before a Senate and House task force on climate change about their commitments to reduce carbon pollution and lobbied Congress on behalf of a clean-energy financing bill. The limited ability of environmental NGOs and trusts to participate in the debate on climate negotiations in certain countries has restricted the range of policy options being discussed. Despite this limitation, transnational advocacy networks have mobilized energetically and with some documented success.

Fighting Isolation to Achieve Collective Impact

Whether lobbying is done by corporate or non-profit entities, it should ideally be a collaborative effort to achieve collective impact. Referring back to Peterson and Pfitzer’s three types of ‘good’ lobbying that can be undertaken by companies, lobbying that is restricted to improving companies’ competitive context will necessarily be limited in what it can hope to achieve. Many issues will not be picked up because they do not resonate with any company’s mission or values. The same may be true for nonprofits but having more players in the field will maximize issue coverage.

Smaller nonprofits tend to be disadvantaged as they lack the resources to target decision makers and leverage their membership base. Additional clout may be obtained through advocacy networks, either local or transnational. An alternative approach is through ‘collective impact initiatives’, which represent the “commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem” (John Kania & Mark Kramer, SSIR). Rather than simply working together through partnerships or decentralized networks, collective impact initiatives centre around a core team of dedicated thought leaders who use a centralized infrastructure and structured process to generate a shared agenda, aligned goals and mutually reinforcing activities amongst all members. While this is at the expense of some degree of individual autonomy, it has the potential to achieve targeted results.

Landmark Lawsuit Launched against Canadian Mining Company

This month saw the first lawsuit filed in British Columbia against a Canadian mining company for its operations overseas. A group of seven Guatemalans has commenced a civil action against the Vancouver-based mining company Tahoe Resources Inc. for injuries they suffered while engaging in peaceful protest against the company in spring 2013. A recent news article on the facts giving rise to the claim can be viewed here.

The case is unique both for being the first of its kind in the province and its reliance on the company’s adherence to voluntary codes of conduct to show that it had a duty of care to the claimants. The claim notes that Tahoe Resources has committed to upholding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as well as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. In fact, both of these commitments are explicitly set out in the company’s Human Rights Policy (found here). The UN Guiding Principles were only adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 but we are starting to see a trend of claimants attempting to establish a duty of care under tort law in part relying on the company’s adopting of the Guiding Principles. A similar argument has been advanced in the case Choc v Hudbay Minerals by the intervenor Amnesty International, which argued that “a range of voluntary codes of conduct developed in conjunction with multinational corporations” have delineated an emerging standard of care for human rights in transnational business operations (Choc v. Hudbay Minerals, 2013 ONSC 1414, para. 33). The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has allowed the case to proceed to trial, making it the first of its kind in Canada.

The trials against both Tahoe Resources and Hudbay Minerals will raise difficult questions of legal policy and law for the courts to consider in establishing a novel duty of care. If successful, however, the decisions may introduce expanded exposure to risks and liabilities for Canadian corporations operating abroad. We may expect to see additional cases filed in Canada against companies operating particularly in the extractives sector in other countries due to the high number of companies headquartered in Canada and the difficulty of pursuing recourse in the US given the Supreme Court of the United States’ recent decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which significantly limits the scope of the Alien Tort Statute.

The Notice of Civil Claim is a publicly available document which can be accessed via the link provided (NOCC-Tahoe Resources).

Do Deferred Prosecution Agreements Promote Corporate Accountability?

Deferred Prosecution Agreements (‘DPAs’) have long been available to prosecutors in the US but were only recently introduced in the UK on 28 February 2014 through the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The UK Serious Fraud Office (‘SFO’) and Crown Prosecution Service (‘CPS’) are now able to enter into agreements with corporate defendants (but not individuals, unlike the US) which they are considering prosecuting for an economic crime. The deferral of prosecution is done in exchange for payment of a financial penalty and compliance with the other terms stipulated in the agreement.

A DPA may impose a number of requirements on the corporate entity in addition to a financial penalty, including but not limited to:

  • compensation of victims of the alleged offence;
  • donation of money to a charity or other third party;
  • disgorgement of profits made from the alleged offence;
  • implementation of a compliance programme or changes to an existing compliance programme relating to policies and/or training for employees;
  • co-operation in any investigation related to the alleged offence; and
  • payment of reasonable costs of the prosecutor related to the alleged offence or the DPA.

There are a couple unique aspects to DPAs that distinguish them from guilty pleas. Firstly, as mentioned above, the defendant must be a corporate body, a partnership or an unincorporated association but cannot be an individual. Secondly, the DPA may only related to a limited list of offences, including fraud, bribery, money laundering and forgery offences, among others. Thirdly, the DPA must be agreed to before charges are laid. The prosecutor must apply for a private hearing before the Crown Court for a declaration that entering into a DPA is (a) likely to be in the interests of justice and (b) that its proposed terms are fair, reasonable and proportionate before proceeding. If such a declaration is made, the parties will negotiate the terms of the DPA, which will need to be approved by the Crown Court in a subsequent hearing before taking effect.

DPAs in Practice

The SFO and CPS have released a Deferred Prosecution Agreements Code of Practice (the ‘Code of Practice’) outlining how DPAs are intended to work in practice. The prosecutor may approach a company to discuss the potential for a DPA at any time after he or she has “a reasonable suspicion based upon some admissible evidence that [the organisation] has committed the offence, and that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a continued investigation would provide further admissible evidence within a reasonable period of time” (para. 1.2). The prosecutor is required to provide the business with “sufficient information to play an informed part in the negotiations” and to ensure that the corporate entity “is not misled as to the strength of the prosecution case” (para. 5.2).

In order to decide on the suitability of a DPA, prosecutors must apply a two-stage test:

  1. In the evidential stage, prosecutors must apply the ‘Full Code Test,’ or if that isn’t met, they must have “at least a reasonable suspicion” based upon the evidence that the company committed the offense.
  2. In the public interest stage, prosecutors have to consider if the public “would be properly served” if they used a deferred-prosecution agreement instead of prosecuting.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has said that DPAs have given prosecutors “additional powers in the fight against fraud and economic crime” but it will be “quite rare” that the circumstances of a case will justify the use of a DPA.

Self-Reporting

The most important initial issue for a company is the decision whether or not to self-report and cooperate with the prosecutor. The decision whether to enter into a DPA or prosecute is discretionary and there is no guarantee that if a company self-reports or cooperates with the prosecutor that it will be spared prosecution. However, failure to notify the misconduct to the prosecutor within a reasonable timeframe or reporting the misconduct to a prosecutor but failing to verify the initial report are both deemed factors that a prosecutor should view as favouring a decision to prosecute. (Code of Practice 2.8.1 (v) & (vi)).

On the other hand, a “genuinely proactive approach” by company management, as well as self-reporting to the prosecutor “within a reasonable time” and taking remedial action will be factors to weigh in favour of a DPA (Code of Practice 2.8.2 (i)). Thus, if an internal investigation uncovers evidence of fraud, bribery, corruption or other corporate crimes, management must decide whether to release this information to the authorities without any certainty that it will be possible to negotiate a DPA and with the risk that the information may be used against the company if the prosecutor decides to lay charges. Furthermore, the inculpatory information will not remain confidential even in the event of a DPA as the hearing to confirm the DPA is conducted in open court.

Promoting Corporate Accountability?

The introduction of DPAs in the UK raises questions about how best to address corporate criminality, allocate responsibility and promote corporate accountability. The single most positive benefit of DPAs is their promotion of remedial measures and compliance programmes. The policies and procedures of the impugned company will be strictly scrutinized both internally and externally to look at fostering compliance. Employee training may be mandated to ensure that everyone in the business understands the policies and is able to implement them. Companies themselves tend to be in favour of DPAs due to the reputational consequences of a guilty plea and the admissions in guilty plea may lead to the commencement of civil actions.

More globally, DPAs avoid the potentially disruptive effects of criminal prosecutions and eventual convictions, which may lead to the winding up of the company. David Green, director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, has said in a statement that convicting a company for economic crime could “cause collateral damage” to employees, shareholders and creditors that may be negatively affected by the failure of the company.” Under appropriate circumstances, a deferred prosecution may “help restore the integrity of a company’s operations and preserve the financial viability of a corporation that has engaged in criminal conduct”, while still giving the prosecutor the ability to prosecute for material breaches of the agreement (US Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organisations, para. 9-28.1000 B).

At a more prosaic level, DPAs offer budget-strapped prosecutors an easy way to avoid the cost and delay of overseeing a full criminal investigation and conducting a prolonged trial, as well as enabling prosecutors to secure substantial fines. DPAs therefore represent a welcome contribution to government revenue. Because DPAs tend to be concluded much more quickly than criminal trials, they may also secure prompt victim restitution.

The rise in the use of DPAs in the US has led to a debate about whether they are effective in deterring misconduct and reducing recidivism or rather “allow a corporate criminal to escape without consequences” (US Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organisations, para. 9-28.1000 B). Since 2000, the US Department of Justice has entered into 273 publicly disclosed DPAs and NPAs that have led to monetary penalties totaling more than $40 billion (see here). Judge Rakoff of the Southern District of New York has questioned the use of DPAs and NPAs (‘Non-Prosecution Agreements’, not available in the UK) without the prosecution of any persons whose conduct resulted in corporate liability. According to Judge Rakoff, “the future deterrent value of successfully prosecuting individuals far outweighs the prophylactic benefits of imposing internal compliance measures that are often little more than window-dressing.”

Indeed, the move towards deferred prosecutions may be part of continued trend to privilege the speedy resolution of corporate crimes at the expense of a full adjudication and determination of responsibility. Given the expiry of the five-year statute of limitations for most potential offences that relate to the financial crisis, it appears less and less likely that any major banks will be prosecuted or top level executives charged for their role in the financial breakdown. While Credit Suisse recently became the first financial institution to plead guilty to criminal charges in more than a decade (there was no DPA), the guilty plea was for conspiring to aid wealthy Americans to avoid payment of taxes and was unrelated to the financial crisis. There is no evidence that the oft-cited argument that the major banks are “too big to fail”, even if true, should apply to prevent holding individual bankers accountable.

Joining Frank Bold

I am very pleased to be joining the public interest law firm/NGO Frank Bold at the end of my Masters of Law studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science as the Head of Brussels Operations. My primary focus will be to further the work of the Purpose of the Corporation Project, which questions the dominant theory that the central purpose of companies is to maximize shareholder value.

The project’s concept note can be read here. It is also possible to watch a number of talks from a European Parliament conference that Frank Bold co-organized in February 2014 with the Cardiff Business School and Richard Howitt MEP, the European Parliament rapporteur on corporate social responsibility. It attracted over 120 participants, including representatives from companies, investors, academia, NGOs, and policy makers. The conference aimed to re-open a public discussion on this topic and will be followed by a number of other initiatives and conferences. If you prefer to digest the information in written format, the conference synopsis and programme are both available online.

If corporate governance reform is a topic that interests you, the Purpose of the Corporation Project has produced short reports on challenges relating to corporate governance linked to management studies, politics, and accounting (available here). Also, you may wish to join the LinkedIn group to follow current discussion from leading business leaders, academics and lawyers, as well as to contribute your own thoughts.

On Ultra Distance Running

I was recently interviewed by the Canadian Bar Association’s National Magazine on my long distance trail running and ultra marathons. The article will be published shortly and I will post a link when it goes live. I figured that I might as well post the entire interview here for posterity.

What and where are you studying?

Currently, I am studying in the Masters of Law programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). My courses focus on business and human rights. My dissertation looks at the effectiveness of non-judicial grievance mechanisms in providing a remedy for harms that arise out of transnational business activity.

At the same time, I am a researcher at the LSE Human Rights Centre Investment & Human Rights Project. We launched a website on April 10 that is an innovative online learning hub to help draw the connection between international investment and human rights. The project is helping to build awareness of how international investment works and how it can either promote or have a negative impact on the protection of human rights. The website is accessible here.

When did you start trail running?

For years I jogged a bit but it was only in 2009 that I set the goal of running the Vancouver Marathon. It seemed like a good way to take my mind off the stress of articling. I should have taken up knitting. It was a terrible experience that I wanted to end shortly after it began. At the 30 km mark, we ran through Stanley Park and all I could think about was diving into the bushes and hiding until everyone left. The only thing that kept me running was the shame of telling my run club that I gave up halfway through. I swore never to repeat the experience.

The following year, I was working as a legal fellow for the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The elapse of a year had dimmed the memory of the horror of the Vancouver marathon enough for me to sign up for the Nairobi Marathon 2010, convincing myself that this time I would be more prepared. It was even worse than in Vancouver. The course was what I now consider to be my personal hell: hot laps of burning asphalt road out to the airport and back. There was not a single patch of shade on the entire 42.2 km course. I swore never to put on running shoes again.

But I am a glutton for punishment and I love nature. When I was back in Vancouver, a friend convinced me to try trail running. It had the adrenaline rush that I love about hiking, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing without requiring any particular skill or equipment. After running a few shorter races, I ran my first 50 km race in 2012.

I found myself running longer and longer distances for the challenge – and because the farther the distance, the slower you can run. If you run 5 km with a pace of 7 km/hour, no one is terribly impressed. If you maintain that speed for 100 km, they will give you a medal. It’s not a matter of being fast – at some point, everyone else has given up and gone home. I’m not built for speed, or much of anything involving manual labour. At barely five feet tall, other racers at the start line tend to give me a sideways glance that asks ‘are you sure you know what you signed up for, kid?’ It was a blow to my morale initially but eventually it became liberating – if no one thinks you can do anything, then it really is up to you to find your own limits.

How do you find time to do it?

There is always time for who and what you love. And it helps that I don’t train in the conventional sense. To me, a hobby is about leaving checklists and schedules behind so I don’t have a training regimen. I run when I feel like it, never more than a couple times a week, often when I want to eat an entire bag of chips but feel I need to earn it first. And I run races because that’s the only reliable way I have found to make sure there’s someone standing in the middle of a forest or on top of a mountain to pass me a cheeseburger or chocolate bars when I run by (the food at ultramarathons is consistently amazing). I don’t run to beat other people or get a PB (personal best) – I run because it’s the only time that my head is clear and I think of nothing but where to put my feet. It is entirely possible that I would be a better runner if I trained more consistently but it is equally likely that I would not be able to sustain the schedule and would eventually stop running all together. So I keep running when I feel like it.

What has trail running & competing in races like Fat Dog 70 race brought to your life?

Boiled to the essence, there are three reasons I run: challenge, clarity and rollercoasters. The first is self-evident; I love the challenge. At some point I got it into my head that I should run the Grand Canyon. It seemed like a really crazy thing to do but there were lots of other people who had done it so I figured I should give it a shot. Out of the blue, my boyfriend needed to travel to Arizona for work and it seemed like the perfect time. The only problem was that his trip to Arizona was that week-end (it was Wednesday) and it was late winter so there was no shuttle to pick me up at the end of the Grand Canyon. Suddenly the plan was even more extreme – I would have to prepare in four days and I would have to run a half marathon more than I had ever run without any support crew. The idea of running across the entire Grand Canyon and then back again seemed totally insane to me right up until the moment I did it.

West Coast Trail
Pre-dawn start on the WCT

The second reason is clarity. Running is often referred to as moving mediation and I think it encourages us to focus on what is important and leave behind the rest. Last year I ran the entire West Coast Trail by myself and was nearly swept away while swimming across a river because I am a poor swimmer and had underestimated its depth and current. My first thought was ‘[expletive], I would have looked incredibly stupid if I had drowned crossing that tiny river.’ My second, and more important, thought was that I was very lucky to have people in my life who love me enough to come searching for my lifeless, waterlogged body. I had similar thoughts of gratitude close to the end of the trail when I came across a bear blocking my path that I had to scare away to continue (although by then I was unbelievably tired and was less able to appreciate the life lesson that was being given to me). [As an aside, it turns out that I am the fastest known female time on the West Coast Trail. Cdn Trail Records (FKTs) _ Trailrunningcanada.]

The third reason is that running an ultramarathon distance squeezes the entire rollercoaster of life into one day. It is truly the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Life is full of joy and heartache, success and disappointment. With running, you can experience it all and still be home in time for dinner. I prefer not to think about how many times I have laid facedown on the ground in tears because I tripped on a rock while running in the middle of the night or was just so exhausted that I fell over. I would rather remember looking up at the starlit sky from the last peak around the 68-mile mark of a 70-mile race and then down to the lights below at the finish line knowing that I had made it. It was a pretty amazing feeling.

What’s next for you in the world of trail running?

I’m gearing up for the Ultra Trail Marão (121 km) in Portugal next month. My goal is to raise a bit of money for the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture. I was on the Board of Directors until I moved to London – it is an amazing organization helping refugees and other newcomers who have experienced torture, trauma and political violence through settlement, counselling and community-based programs. The federal government recently eliminated its funding, which was 75% ($200k) of VAST’s operating budget. Its budget was already very limited and it is now struggling to keep its doors open.

I am also planning to run my first hundred miler later in the year and have a couple ideas for solo expedition runs in my back pocket. Should keep me busy and out of trouble!

Can you share five songs on your playlist?

These are current favourites on my running playlist :

Reflektor (Arcade Fire)

Pompeii (Bastille)

Silver and Gold (local BC band Noah and the Whale)

Glitter & Gold (Rebecca Ferguson)

And a guilty pleasure: Roar (Katy Perry)

Launch of LSE Investment & Human Rights Project Learning Hub

A project that I have been working on for the past six months at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Human Rights Centre launches today. The Investment & Human Rights Project is an online learning hub that explores the connection between human rights and international investment. The Investment & Human Rights Project is part of a broader initiative at LSE called the Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Global Economy (LAB), which probes the challenges posed by the complexities of the global economy and their implications for human well-being.

There are a few issues in this sphere that have received attention lately, particularly the role of human rights in international investment arbitration (ISDS), and a number of NGOs have begun to devote attention to the role of foreign investment in either promoting or negatively impacting on human rights. In general, however, the relationship between foreign direct investment and the protection of human rights is under-explored.

The learning hub is built around a network diagram that maps out key concepts and shows the connections between them. One of the challenges with developing a learning tool in this area of law is that it can be complex and opaque. There are some disputes in international investment arbitration where the connection to human rights is clear. For example, it is fairly obvious how a case arising from the privatization of a water utility company may be relevant to an individual community’s access to water. In other instances, the investment dispute may not directly touch on human rights issues but raises broader questions about the scope of the State’s ability to regulate to protect human rights, the environment and other areas of public policy.

The Investment & Human Rights Project aims to bridge the gap by:

  • building awareness about how international investment works and what might be its relationship to peoples’ enjoyment of their human rights, and
  • creating constructive spaces for learning, research, discussion and sharing of practical tools in the area of investment and human rights.

I encourage you to check out the website and let us know what you think.