Welcome to Ergon’s regular newsletter, covering our recent work supporting clients on human rights, labour standards and gender.
A word from the Directors
As of September 2023, Stuart (Bell) has stepped down from day-to-day operational responsibilities at Ergon. He remains a Director of the company and will continue in a pared-down strategic role. He reflects on his 18 years at the helm in this insightful blog.
This also seems like the right moment for Ergon’s other Directors to say a couple of words to the broader community of colleagues, clients and co-practitioners, and to reflect on the role Stuart has played in the birth (heaving biomass pellet up the stairs of our first eco-office), infancy (last minute dashes to various far-flung site assessments) and – all things considered, fairly mild – adolescence of Ergon.
“We started out in Stuart’s kitchen, in 2005. While the name ‘Ergon’ was not his first choice – we’ll keep that one to ourselves – our long-term vision was definitively shaped by his insight and experience: he brought decades of it, having campaigned, established an entire field (!) and started a company. Not bad. More than that, the tone of who we are and want to be is indelibly marked by Stuart’s integrity, empathy – and sense of humour.
Stuart’s guiding hand has lifted the standard of our work and the way we are as team. He has not just been a colleague – he has been a mentor and a friend, and has generously shared his judgement and expertise. We have all learned things from him that extend beyond our work.
Stuart leaves behind big shoes to fill (literally, sorry Stu). We also take comfort that he would not be scaling down his involvement unless he were absolutely certain that we have the right team in place. With a deep pool of long-standing colleagues who have now made Ergon their own, we are confident too.
Stuart, you will be greatly missed. Though you may be leaving the daily schedule, your influence on how we work will not. We extend our sincere gratitude for your years of dedication, fair-mindedness and preternatural calm. Thanks mate.” – Steve, Alastair and Kirsten.
Case studies and publications
Last month, IFC published “Inclusive Employment: Advancing Economic Opportunities at the Base of the Pyramid. “Ergon worked with IFC’s Gender and Economic Inclusion Department (GEID) on the flagship report, which highlights the role that the private sector can play in expanding employment opportunities for workers at the base of the economic pyramid (BOP). These workers are typically informal or low-skilled positions, with limited earning potential, and often belong to underserved groups, including women, refugees, migrant workers and ethnic minorities, among others.
The research presents 13 case studies of emerging good practice from companies and organisations in diverse geographies (including Costa Rica, South Africa and India) and sectors (agribusiness, manufacturing, waste management, retail and digital platforms). Importantly, the study demonstrates how investing in the most vulnerable workers can create tangible benefits for businesses, including in terms of building resilient supply chains, attracting and retaining workers, increasing productivity and product quality and attracting investment. Within Ergon, this research was led by Kirsten Newitt and Sam Kelly.
Assessing sustainability standards: Textile Exchange
Last month, Textile Exchange released a new and publicly available version of its Preferred Fiber & Materials Matrix (PFMM), a tool that enables users to assess sustainability standards systems across domains including climate, water, land use and for the first time, human rights. Ergon is pleased to have collaborated with Textile Exchange, partners and stakeholders on the development of the PFMM’s methodology for assessing human rights standards systems. Please contact Brett Dodge for information on our work with standards systems, certification, and multi-stakeholder initiatives.
HRDD support in the chemical industry
We have recently started a project to support a client and leader in the chemical industry to strengthen their approach to human rights due diligence. This work entails a detailed review and benchmarking of current practice against human rights due diligence legislation and international standards, engagement with a variety of functions and teams across the business and the co-creation of action plans to address identified gaps in line with good practice. Please reach out to Laura Curtze for more information on our approach to HRDD.
Grievance mechanisms: FIFA Women’s World Cup
During the recent Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, we assisted with grievance management and media monitoring for any human rights related issues that emerged. FIFA set up a dedicated human rights complaints process for the Women’s World Cup that was accessible to individuals to make complaints through multiple channels including an online system, email, volunteer feedback and in-person at stadiums. Ergon supported FIFA through monitoring, responding to and triaging any incoming complaints overnight, in order to alert relevant teams and ensure that issues were swiftly responded to. This followed on from our recent work for FIFA in relation to the Men’s World Cup in Qatar. For more information on our work relating to grievance mechanisms, please contact Matthew Waller.
HuRi policy development: German Olympic Association
Through a partnership with the Centre on Sport and Human Rights, we have been supporting the German Olympic Association in developing a human rights policy. This work has been led by the Centre, with expert support from Ergon, and entails extensive internal and external stakeholder engagement, including two stakeholder roundtables in Berlin that bring together experts, sports organisations and rightsholder representatives, as well as an overall risk analysis to identify key salient issues. Laura Curtze leads this work on the Ergon side.
The Ergon team has been busy contributing to and attending a variety of relevant events over the last few months. Some past and upcoming examples below.
Brett Dodge presented at the Global Shrimp Forum in Utrecht last month. Brett attended the full three days of the conference, and presented on our approach to HRIAs and the changers buyers can make for more sustainable sourcing. Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) presents an opportunity for new kinds of partnerships among leading shrimp producers and their retailers to address systemic human rights risks in the sector. The presentation was be followed by a lively panel discussion.
Catherine Morgans had the pleasure of presenting on Gender Masterclasses for members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) agriculture working group during September. Catherine shared gender learnings from our agricultural Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs) – including common impacts, red flags, practical approaches to applying a gender lens and actions companies can take to address impacts. If you are interested in our HRIAs and gender work, please can contact Catherine directly.
This month, Mac Ngo had an opportunity to attend the Global Impact Investing Forum Network (GIIN) in Copenhagen. The GIIN forum is an annual gathering of impact investors and an exciting opportunity to engage with key themes in the industry, including climate investing, impacts of AI, and inclusive finance.
Panelists and speakers highlighted the myriad challenges we are confronted with, including ongoing financing gaps for climate initiatives and the short-termism of current corporate governance approaches. However many sounded notes of optimism, including increased interest in impact investing, rich opportunities in the global south, and an improving enabling environment for the green transition. For those interested in the job quality aspects of impact investing, reach out to Mac.
Laura Curtze will be facilitating a workshop on child labour at the Swiss Government’s Forum on Business and Human Rights, organised by UN Global Compact Network Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which takes place in Bern on 18 October.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to our team directly, via email or LinkedIn, if you will also be in attendance at any of the events and would like to catch up.
We are very pleased to announce the arrival of Lotta Skul and Clara Castello to our team this last month.
Lotta joins us as a consultant. Before Ergon, Lotta worked as a social performance consultant, advising on infrastructure and renewable-energy projects in Africa and Asia. She also has experience in corporate social strategy for private companies and in corporate partnerships for NGOs. Lotta holds an M.A in International Law from the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), focusing on human rights and gender analysis, and a BA in English Literature from the University of Leeds, specialising in African Literature.
Clara joins us as a researcher. She holds an MSc in Global Politics and a BSc in International Relations and History from the London School of Economics (LSE), focusing on globalisation, international institutions and migration. Prior to joining Ergon, Clara has supported development and peacebuilding NGOs on research and programmes particularly relating to the Sahel and Central African region. She speaks fluent French and English.