BSR Conference 2019

The New Climate for Business

November 12-14, 2019 San Jose, California

Photos from breakout sessions

Sessions and Workshops

Speakers to be announced as the program develops throughout the year. Sessions and workshops are subject to change.

Advancing Gender Equality to Tackle Climate Change

As the effects of climate change continue to exacerbate poverty, inequality, and other social issues, the solutions we put forth must include social focus—including empowering women to be leaders on climate action. The international community—with the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 and the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan in 2017—is prioritizing women’s leadership on climate change solutions. Business, too, can act by empowering women leaders to act on climate throughout their value chains. Learn how doing so is a win-win-win for business, women, and society.

Aligning Materiality and Risk Management to Ignite Change

While a materiality assessment is a key tool for sustainability teams, it is too often developed in silo from other corporate tools such as enterprise risk management (ERM). There are opportunities to align materiality and ERM processes in a way that can build stronger connections to serve the core business. This interactive session will use a live example to understand connections between materiality and risk management and explore opportunities to bridge and enhance both risk and sustainability assessments. 

Beyond Case Studies: Measuring and Communicating Total Impact

After years of focus on footprints and case studies, attention is now squarely on the sustainability impacts of an entire company and the products and services that generate its revenue.  How can a company evaluate, measure, and enhance its impacts? Learn directly from the companies and investors deploying innovative new models to make sustainability part of the revenue model—driving greater impact and revenue in the process.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals: Pilot Testing from the Field

Today’s rapidly changing world requires companies to make big bets in order to achieve their future goals—but how do they make the initial leap? There are innumerable factors to weigh before identifying the right pilot and testing it. And once a pilot is in place, how do companies transition to scaling the program to meet the desired commitment? Join us for this candid discussion and learn from companies that have made progress on their ambitious goals.

Business and the Biodiversity Crisis

In the coming decades, 1 million of the world's 8 million plant and animal species are at risk of disappearing from Earth. Business intervention has never been more important. In advance of the 2020 Biodiversity Convention and the New Nature Action Agenda, participants will hone in on the crucial, but not always obvious, role of business in conservation and biodiversity protection. Explore nature-based solutions to climate, wildlife trading and its impact on conservation and livelihood, the role of business in creating healthy ecosystems, and more during this timely discussion. 

Climate’s Impact on Health: Why Every Business Should Care

Climate change affects each and every human around the globe, with profound and potentially lasting implications that could undermine decades of progress in public health. Companies operating at the intersection of health and climate have a critical role to play and a massive opportunity to contribute to solutions. As climate change intensifies, so do its impacts on human health—and on business. These impacts affect companies in all sectors. Join representatives from healthcare; financial services; information and communications technology; and food, beverage, and agriculture to learn how to build climate resilience.

Countdown to 2030: Innovating for the SDGs

The 17 goals and 169 targets that comprise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an ambitious roadmap for the global community to achieve real progress for humanity. A business-as-usual approach is not enough to reach these ambitious targets, and in response, a growing number of innovative and interconnected approaches are emerging. Examine the role that innovation can play for companies, donors, and civil society in their pursuit of the SDGs.

Facing the Future: The Implications of Facial Recognition

New technologies are transforming private and public spaces as facial recognition becomes more accessible and consumer-facing. From crime prevention to checkout-free stores, there are many opportunities to benefit from human-sensing tools. However, risks of discrimination and privacy violations also exist. In fact, some cities have already gone so far as to create “facial recognition free zones.” Discover how business, government, and civil society are thinking about how to respect human rights throughout the development and deployment of this new technology.  

Fixing Fake News: Content Moderation in the Era of Virality

How can social media platforms respect users’ freedom of expression while also protecting them from harm? With more than 3 billion people active on social media, it’s a challenge of unprecedented scale in human history. Over 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute; Facebook removes around 8 million pieces of content per quarter for violating standards for hate speech, bullying, and terrorist propaganda; Twitter takes action against around 250,000 unique accounts each quarter for violating hateful conduct rules. Are social media platforms fighting a losing battle against the sheer volume of content? Companies are ramping up content moderation efforts, but they face major questions about how to create content standards, how to balance global rules with local context, and what the role of each stakeholder should be. Investigate some of the ways companies can solve these challenges in a way that balances security, privacy, and freedom of expression.

Future-Proofing Human Rights Due Diligence

The world around us is changing at an increasingly rapid pace, with new technologies, shifting social norms, and turbulent politics transforming the circumstances in which business is expected to meet its responsibility to respect human rights. In this context, one big question looms large: Is the business and human rights field equipped to identify, and effectively mitigate, the potentially adverse impacts of the future? This interactive workshop will explore new approaches to human rights due diligence designed to help companies identify and address the uncertain human rights impacts of a rapidly changing world.

How MVPs are Leveling the Playing Field

As industries begin to reveal the true scope and scale of the gender pay gap, the male-dominated sports industry has not escaped criticism for its unequal pay practices: Men and women are compensated at vastly different levels for doing the exact same work, be it scoring goals, shooting hoops, or hitting home runs. This off-field battle for pay equity and greater representation of women as professional coaches and commentators continues to pick up momentum, with All-Star players speaking up on behalf of their sports and teammates, and sporting companies putting more women in the broadcaster’s box and on billboards. This panel of accomplished female athletes will discuss how to keep pushing for progress and work with industry leaders to achieve gender equity.

Investor Relations in the New Era of ESG Scrutiny

After years of hard work by investors and NGOs, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to CEOs has finally helped vault sustainability to the top of the agenda in investor relations, amplifying the voices of socially responsible investors and pushing companies to take new actions, improve their reporting, and come up the learning curve—quickly. What should companies do to respond to the increase in investor scrutiny, and how can they work with their investor relations teams to turn ESG demand into sustainable business impact? Learn from speakers as they share their experiences at the intersection of corporate sustainability, investor relations, and shareholder demand.

Leading Radical Change through Collaboration

Business leaders who are steering BSR’s largest collaborations will share what it takes to tackle a company's most critical sustainability challenges. What mindsets, talents, and business model transformations are needed to collaborate with peers and stakeholders, and what leadership qualities enable companies to achieve radical change?

Smashing the Patriarchy: The Limits and Risks of Corporate Feminism

As women’s rights have risen on the political agenda, companies have sought to align themselves with feminism as a social movement. This has led to successful advertising campaigns, revamped brand images, and product marketing that connects with women. Yet the backlash against ‘corporate feminism’ is growing, with many pointing out that feminism is a political movement for the liberation of women, requiring political changes that will threaten and disrupt existing business models. Are companies aware of the demands of feminism? What role can companies play in supporting women’s rights, without exposing themselves to charges of hypocrisy or deliberate diluting of radical demands?

Standardizing and Scaling Up: Climate Resilience Across Value Chains

Climate change impacts—including more frequent and intense extreme weather events, warming temperatures, and drought—already affect businesses and communities along company value chains. As more companies recognize the urgency to reduce climate risk to maintain productivity, they face a significant challenge in developing resilience strategies: the absence of universal metrics and standards to quantify the benefits. Explore the opportunities and options in setting adaptation targets, defining a framework for results, and maximizing the benefits of resilience for communities along company value chains. 

The New Climate for Activism: Employees Take the Lead

Employee engagement is changing. We’ve seen tech workers write letters to CEOs, organize protests, and even walk off the job because of how their companies’ products might be used. When working with governments or building products that might jeopardize human rights, companies need to consider their employees’ reactions. Learn first-hand how companies are handling these issues today and working to develop products that reflect the deep respect for human rights that they promote in their cultures and systems.

The New Climate for Business Responsibility: Modernizing the Social Contract

The social contract that has shaped our economy over the past 75 years is no longer fit for purpose. In the context of profound global changes, there are significant business incentives to redefine the social contract that enables and reflects the social stability business needs to thrive. This session will explore the relative roles and responsibilities of business, government, and citizens in navigating the global changes that are remaking the nature of work, creating the framework in which businesses can innovate and compete, and understanding the implications of the energy transition made more urgent by climate change. Insights from this session will be relevant to debates over social safety nets, fair wages, healthcare, and education.

The New Climate for Ever-Evolving Technology

New and disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things, are being deployed across all industries—everything from financial services to retail, mining to automotive, and logistics to healthcare. The adoption of these technologies brings significant implications for company sustainability strategies: New material issues will arise, salient human rights impacts will change, and different stakeholders will need to join the table. What can companies from outside the technology industry learn from those that have faced these issues over the past decade? 

The New Economic Climate: Business Response to Income Inequality

Much of the social conflict that has emerged in the U.S. and Europe in the past year has focused on growing concerns about income inequality and declining social mobility. For business, this presents a challenge to social license to operate: Failure to address a growing sense of economic vulnerability is leading to a backlash against the very idea of capitalism. At the same time, many businesses are exploring ways in which they can modernize their approach to skill development and compensation to address economic insecurity. This session will also explore questions on executive pay and tax structures, which are increasingly garnering attention.

Transforming Sustainable Supply Chains

This workshop will explore the ways in which companies and consortia are working together with unusual partners and new mechanisms to transform supply chain dynamics. Participants in this session will look specifically at three real-life case studiesto learn about how specific supply chains have been transformed, as well as the impacts and results. Join to learn how to co-create truly sustainable supply chains using BSR’s new ‘supply chain paradigm’ and take part in a workshop to apply the learnings to a supply chain of your choice.

Using Technology to Monitor Supply Chains: Good Idea or Big Brother?

Thanks to new technology, supply chain management is going digital. Technological advances are changing how products and services are made and delivered and enabling the creation and sharing of supply chain information in new ways. But are these ‘advances’ always positive? Let's debate whether using digital tools to gain traceability and visibility—as in the case with forest satellite monitoring—is truly providing sustainability benefits. How can we use these tools in a way that respects peoples’ privacy and livelihoods and benefits those in the supply chain who are most in need?


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Superb! Each year I look forward to this conference and this year was no exception. I came away inspired, as usual, but also took away tactical advice to improve our CSR program.