Activism and Pragmatism: Building a Career as a Global Change Maker: A Brown Bag Discussion with Bennett Freeman

Seminar | March 9 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 820 Barrows Hall

 Bennett Freeman

 Social Science Matrix

Opportunities for progressive change in the 21st century increasingly come from multiple actors and sectors: governments and international institutions; multinational corporations and innovative entrepreneurs; responsible and impact investors; activist campaigners and social movements. Often those opportunities come at the intersection of those actors and sectors: sometimes forged in conflict; other times in cooperation.

Change happens among not only among like-minded fellow travelers but also among ill-disposed strange bedfellows—if they can perceive common interests and define common objectives. From labor and human rights; to poverty and development; to climate and environmental sustainability: initiative is taken, standards are set and progressive change is forged within unconventional networks, among diverse stakeholders and across national borders.

In this discussion, Bennett Freeman will reflect on global change-making across those actors and sectors, networks and stakeholders. Drawing on his experience (LinkedIn) as a State Department diplomat, responsible investment executive, corporate consultant and board member of leading international NGOs, he will suggest career lessons from the front lines of working among the powerful and powerless alike around the world. Please join for a discussion as well as presentation.

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About the Speaker

Over the last 18 years of a 36 year career, Bennett Freeman has worked at the intersection of governments, international institutions, multinational companies, responsible investors and NGOs to promote human rights and sustainable development around the world. An innovative leader in the fields of business and human rights, natural resource governance and responsible investment, he has played key roles in developing several multi-stakeholder initiatives and global standards that have strengthened corporate responsibility in industries from extractives to information and communications technology.

Freeman consults for major corporations, foundations and NGOs from Bennett Freeman Associates LLC; as a Senior Advisor for Business for Social Responsibility (BSR); and a Strategic Partner of RESOLVE.

Bennett Freeman serves as Chair of the Advisory Board of Global Witness (GW); Board Secretary of the Global Network Initiative (GNI); a member of the Governing Board of the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NRGI); Chair of the Board of EG Justice; Chair of the Advisory Board of the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN); a Trustee of The Mountain Institute; a member of the Human Rights Advisory Committee of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR); and an Advisor to the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) initiative. Freeman served as a Trustee and International Advisory Board member of the Institute for Human Rights and Business from 2009-15. He served on the Board of Oxfam America (OA) from 2002-10 and represented Oxfam plus Publish What You Pay on the Board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) from 2006-09. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a frequent speaker at universities, policy think tanks and international conferences.

As Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy at Calvert Investments from April 2006-April 2015, he led the Bethesda MD-based firm’s environmental, social and governance research for over 40 funds, developed investment themes for new funds and directed its shareholder advocacy and public policy initiatives. He established or reinforced Calvert’s leadership on Sudan divestment and human rights in Burma; extractive revenue transparency and conflict minerals; Internet freedom of expression and privacy; climate policy and water sustainability; corporate board diversity and workplace gender equity.

Prior to joining Calvert, Freeman was a Managing Director at Burson-Marsteller from May 2003-March 2006, where he led the Global Corporate Responsibility practice and advised multinational corporations on policy development, stakeholder engagement and communications strategies related to human rights, labor practices and sustainable development. Previously, he advised companies, international institutions and NGOs on corporate responsibility and human rights as the Principal of Sustainable Investment Strategies. In that capacity, he co-authored a human rights impact assessment (HRIA) focusing on BP’s Tangguh LNG project in West Papua, the first-ever such assessment and subsequent model for others.

Freeman served as a presidential appointee in three positions at the U.S. Department of State in the Clinton Administration. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from April 1999-January 2001, Freeman directed the State Department’s bilateral human rights diplomacy. In that position, he also led the year-long multi-stakeholder dialogue and negotiations to develop and launch the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights as the global human rights standard for oil, gas and mining companies. Freeman directed the Department’s diplomacy and historical research related to Holocaust-era assets as Senior Advisor to Under Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Stuart Eizenstat from April 1997-March 1999. He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and chief speechwriter for Secretary of State Warren Christopher from April 1993-January 1997.

Freeman was Manager-Corporate Affairs for General Electric based in the corporate headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut and the Washington government relations office from February 1985 to April 1993. Freeman began his career as a speechwriter and presidential campaign aide to former Vice President Walter Mondale from February 1982 to November 1984.

Bennett Freeman earned an AB in History with Highest Honors (Summa Cum Laude) in 1979 from the University of California at Berkeley and an MA with Honours in 1981 in Modern History from the University of Oxford, where he studied as an English-Speaking Union Churchill Scholar at Balliol College.

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