Corporate Human Rights Benchmark merges with World Benchmarking Alliance

CHRB to be wound down and absorbed after problems with funding

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) is merging with the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), following trouble securing funding for its flagship human rights rankings.

A CHRB director admitted that waiting for funding had at times left the organisation “substantially in debt” to the EIRIS Foundation, which is linked to one of the research providers involved in the benchmark’s delivery.

The news comes as the WBA has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a research provider support to deliver the CHRB in 2020 – a role that RepRisk and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre have played informally alongside the EIRIS Foundation, which is a shareholder in ESG house Vigeo Eiris (now majority owned by Moody’s) since the benchmark’s early days.

Under the merger, the CHRB, which is a limited company, will be wound down and absorbed into the WBA over the next six-nine months.

The boards of the two investor-backed corporate sustainability benchmarking bodies signed a formal transition agreement this summer.

The CHRB’s three employee contracts have already shifted over to the WBA, and its advisory council will ultimately be disbanded, with some members moved to the alliance’s board.

Bloomer told RI there had been “constant difficulty” gaining government funding. “It’s only a few really far-sighted governments that put [corporate benchmarks] into official development systems.”

According to CHRB documents, the organisation received its initial funding in 2014 from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, UK and Netherlands governments, Aviva Investors, Calvert, IHRB, BHRRC and EIRIS Foundation.

In 2016, it received funding ahead of starting research for the pilot benchmark, from member organisations including Nordea and APG, and the Dutch and Swiss governments, and in 2017 it received funding from members and the UK government.

Bloomer said: “We’ve had the extraordinary support of the EIRIS Foundation. They certainly haven’t been paid for all the work they’ve done.”

Charged with developing a series of SDG-related corporate benchmarks, the WBA was launched last year by founding members Aviva, the United Nations Foundation and Index Initiative.
Bloomer said: “As the WBA is attached to the SDGs it’s able to access more funds. That’s one reason we’re able to be more confident about the long-term financial health of the CHRB with its association with the WBA.”

The CHRB’s ranking will now go alongside the WBA’s forthcoming suite of benchmarks designed to help investors assess the progress of 2,000 keystone companies against the SDGs by 2023.Bloomer said: “We’ve had a rigorous conversation with the WBA to insist and ensure that the CHRB is at the centre of the WBA’s work – that business and human rights lies at the very heart of the SDGs. We believe this conceptual framework will mean we’ll be able to measure and monitor the right things at the right levels and be able to provide data to investors to allow them to make powerful decisions about where to put their money, and what price to put on that money.”

Pauliina Murphy, Engagement Director at the World Benchmarking Alliance, agreed that, “it just made sense to bring the two together, because of the shared purpose and theory of change.”

The RFP published on the WBA website calls for a third party to partner with the WBA and CHRB offering research provider support to deliver the CHRB in 2020. Procurement rules are tighter under the WBA, meaning the work has to go out to public tender.

According to the RFP, “perceived inconsistencies in the interpretation of evidence…resulting in (reportedly) different scores for the same performance” were raised in feedback for its 2016/2017 pilot benchmark, alongside “concerns that the researchers had insufficient experience in interpreting human rights related information in the public documents”.

The selected provider will be confirmed in November 2019, with the 2020 benchmark results and reports published in mid-November 2020.

Responses to the RFP should be submitted by September 30.

Sitting on the current CHRB advisory council are:

  • Steve Waygood – Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors
  • Angelique Laskewitz – Executive Director, VBDO
  • Peter Webster – CEO Eiris Foundation; Head of International Affairs, Vigeo Eiris
  • Phil Bloomer – Executive Director, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)
  • Anna Pot – Responsible Investments Manager, APG Asset Management
  • Bennett Freeman – Consultant, board member and speaker on business and human rights, sustainability, and responsible investment
  • Gerbrand Haverkamp – Executive Director, Index Initiative
  • John Morrison – Chief Executive, Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB)
  • Magdalena Kettis – Head of Thematic Research, Sustainable Finance Team, Nordea
  • Margaret Wachenfeld – Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB)