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SVM2020 – Speaker Profile – Caroline Rees

Social Value Matters 2020

Speaker Profile


Caroline Rees

Businesses impact people’s lives in numerous ways. As President and Co-Founder of Shift, Caroline Rees is dedicated to advancing an agenda that places respect for people’s dignity at the core of how business gets done.

“Our focus is on how business makes its money.”

Caroline’s work has helped transform how we think about the role of the private sector with regards to human rights. Not only did she help develop the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which is the global framework that businesses, governments and civil society use as the authoritative standard on the matter; she also co-founded and leads a mission-driven organization that is dedicated to making the Principles the norm for how business gets done around the world.

For over a decade, Shift has partnered with Fortune 500 companies, national governments, financial institutions, prime sporting bodies, intergovernmental institutions and civil society organizations to advance this mission.

On any typical day, Shift works with businesses across a wide variety of sectors to help identify and address the negative impacts that their operations could be having on people’s rights. The issues vary -from forced labor in garment supply chains and land rights in agriculture, to displacement of communities in the extractives sector and privacy issues around technology, to name a few. Yet, the approach is the same: to ensure that all businesses –regardless of their size, sector or location- are able to assess human rights risks connected to their business, act to prevent and address them, and do so in a way that engages stakeholders in a meaningful way.

Shift also partners with other actors who influence business behavior, such as national governments seeking to put in place measures that influence business behavior; financial institutions and investors, who shape business practice by creating the right incentives for them to respect human rights; and other stakeholders of companies, including trade unions and civil society organizations.

As a mission-driven non-profit, Shift also combines its hands-on expertise with research and analysis to develop tools for public use, in order to raise the bar for all businesses with regards to human rights. This includes Shift’s dedicated tools to improve non-financial disclosure; and practical guidance and case studies to help companies grappling with specific issues -such as trade union rights or sustainability strategies. Its most recent venture is Valuing Respect: a collaborative platform to co-design better methods and indicators to evaluate companies’ human rights performance.

Caroline’s insights come from her career in the public and non-profit sectors. Prior to co-founding Shift, she was the Director of the Governance and Accountability Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Responsibility Initiative.  Caroline served as a British diplomat for fourteen years, with experience covering Iran, Slovakia, the European Union, the UN Security Council, and the UN Human Rights Council.

Caroline will be one of the keynote speakers at Social Value Matters ’20: People, Planet & Power, on September 28-29, 2020.