+32 479 034 431
Profession / Affiliation
Director of Research and Legal Affairs, Institute for Human Rights and Business
Institute for Human Rights and Business
Areas of Expertise
International lawyer and policy adviser with expertise, experience and educational background in applying and linking key international developments and standards related to human development, human rights, good governance, environment, and climate change to the private sector and international organisations. Formerly a project finance transactional lawyer specialising in environmental and social issues in project finance.
Particular areas of research:
Sectors: financial, extractive, infrastructure, ICT
Processes: Due diligence and impact assessments
Interests: Identifying key leverage points for systemic change, translating international standards into transactional requirements
Margaret Wachenfeld is the Director of Research and Legal Affairs at the Institute for Human Rights and Business where she leads the think tank’s research programme with a focus on the finance and extractive sectors, in addition to a wide range of work on legal and due diligence issues. Just prior, she spent six years as a Senior Policy Adviser on children’s rights at UNICEF. Earlier, Ms. Wachenfeld was principal external advisor on human rights for the International Finance Corporation (IFC, World Bank Group). She also advised the EBRD and EIB on human rights and environmental issues. Margaret was a staff lawyer at IFC where she worked on the environmental and social dimensions of IFC’s investments first in the legal department then later in the Environment and Social Development Department. Earlier, Margaret was a senior associate with the law firm of White & Case for seven years where she had a corporate and environmental law practice. Margaret started her career as counsel at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. She has a PhD in human rights law from the University of Copenhagen, a masters in international and comparative law and a juris doctor degree from Duke University Law School, and a bachelor of arts in biology from Wellesley College in the US.
Strengthening the ‘S in ESG: What new developments in human rights and business bring to the table for investors
Abstract Human rights are not a new concern for investors. Responsible investors, notably socially responsible pension and mutual funds and faith-based investors were important participants in di-vestment movements driven by human rights concerns in apartheid South Africa and in Sudan, and have dialogued with companies in different sectors for many years on supply chain and labour rights. Mainstream investors are now focusing on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, in line with similarly increasing attention in other parts of the financial sector.
Investor initiatives such as the UN supported Principles for Responsible Investment and the International Corporate Governance Network are evidence of the growing consideration of a broader range of non-financial factors in investment choices. However, the “s” (so-cial) factor has tended to lag behind the increasingly systematic and formalised approaches to environmental and corporate governance issues, partly due to a perceived lack of clarity and standards.
A new UN framework on business and human rights (the UN Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework and the UN Guiding Principles) provides a new internationally accepted framework to address and diminish human rights related risks. Investors now possess a shared, consistent framework to benchmark and evaluate company performance and hold companies accountable.
The chapter will examine how investors can use the new framework and international standards and initiatives to integrate human rights into investment decision-making and corporate engagement. It will build on illustrations of the increasingly wide range of human rights issues generating attention. The chapter will look at methodological challenges in embedding human rights in a systematic manner into core assessment processes and to broader challenges for investors and regulators of the increasing financialisation of the economy and the implications for improving respect for human rights.