Skip to main content

Doing good is good for business

Amal Clooney, international human rights lawyer

10 November 2021

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney spoke to the APEC CEO summit about protecting human rights in a digital world.

Introduced by APEC CEO Summit Chair Barbara Chapman, Ms Clooney remarked that  businesses can no longer bury their heads on the sand on human rights, and that some companies are waking up to the idea that doing good is good for business.

She said, “Businesses and big multinational corporations and tech companies in particular are a key part of our multilateral world and decision makers. Each one will decide whether to be a force for good or complicit in abuses of power.

“Businesses are not only incidental but absolutely essential to advance human rights in our interconnected world.”

One reason businesses must be aware of human rights is that they can be taken to court for human rights abuses, such as a company who gave millions of dollars to ISIS to operate a business in ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, or a tea company whose employees had suffered sexual assault and sometimes rape by other employees.

But also, companies realise that consumers will pay more for products from sustainable, ethical brands.

“Sometimes, doing the right thing is a calculated decision to pull away," said Ms Clooney, citing the example of a company that refused to sell assault rifles after a mass shooting the US. “A short term loss of profit may avoid long-term harm to the brand.”

When it comes to governments, said Ms Clooney, “some governments that trample on human rights don’t care about bad press.”

She urged governments to work alongside business to find solutions to global issues, and gave the example of New Zealand and France’s work on the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and extremist content online, in which 55 governments are working beside civil society and leading tech companies.

“We can make progress on human rights in the world if liberal democracies use the tools they have to pressure autocracies, and if companies do what they can to move the needle in the right direction.

“I believe we all have a part to play.”


Join, Work, Grow. Together.
Haumi ē, Hui ē, Tāiki ē.