Tu Rinsche is passionate about leveraging social innovations that help people live better and more sustainably. In her current role at Marriott International, Rinsche is responsible for global human rights issues across a portfolio of 30 unique brands. She lends her expertise and leadership to drive Marriott’s core value in promoting ethical conduct by advancing human rights within business policies and operations. She also serves as the CSR brand leader for The Ritz-Carlton and its social and environmental responsibility program, Community Footprints.
Previously, she worked on human rights issues at The Walt Disney Company, co-developing and leading a multi-million dollar social innovation fund that supports human rights projects in promoting ethical sourcing, particularly within the consumer products industry. At the U.S. Department of State, she focused on global forced and child labor issues and programs, serving as the lead on child soldier and cocoa labor issues, as well as corporate social responsibility issues in Africa for the Human Rights Bureau. She has also served as a W.A.S.H. volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Mauritania and promoted awareness-raising campaigns focused on preventable disease. Rinsche’s introductory foray into human rights started 20 years ago with Amnesty International as a volunteer human rights teacher in Washington, D.C.
Christopher P. Skroupa: What role do you feel multinational companies play in curbing forced labor?
Tu Rinsche: As someone who has developed programs to prevent and mitigate human rights issues for two multinational companies in two different industries, I don’t believe that there is a multinational company out there that condones forced labor in their business. However, business has an important and powerful role to play to address human rights issues and fight forced labor and human trafficking. For example, Marriott International is committed to conducting business ethically and advancing human rights wherever it operates. The company has had a human rights policy in place since 2006, which it updated in 2017 to reflect the changing human rights landscape and growing expectations of companies around ethical recruitment and human trafficking. At the beginning of 2017, the company also proactively implemented a mandatory human trafficking training program across all Marriott-branded properties worldwide – educating on-property associates on the signs of human trafficking and forced labor, specifically what signs to look out for and how to report. While this is a multiyear effort, the plan is to report out on specific metrics and progress annually as part of the new Serve 360 human rights goals launched last fall. Multinational companies all can play a positive role and if we do it together, we can make a larger impact to stop forced labor.
Skroupa: How can transparency affect internal-external policy development?
Rinsche: It has been encouraging to see over the past decade that corporate transparency has been able to drive knowledge-sharing and continuous improvement for better policies and programs that address relevant human rights issues affecting companies. At Marriott, the company’s human rights approach continues to evolve through our dialogue with diverse internal and external stakeholders, such as business partners, non-profits, responsible investors, industry groups and peer companies. We learn from these conversations on what we may be doing well and where we can enhance our policies and programs. For example, through engagement with different human rights organizations and experts, such as the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, we made the decision to publicly disclose that Marriott does not charge fees to applicants for employment and specified “no fees” in our updated Human Rights policy. The focus on transparency has also been valuable for the hotel industry overall. Through engagement with the International Tourism Partnership, we have been able to work and collaborate with peer companies in the hotel sector in much more public ways. A good example of this is the launch of new industry human rights goals and the development of industry principles on Forced Labor which was inspired by the work of the Consumer Goods Forum. While public disclosure agendas and requirements have become increasingly cumbersome for companies, it has created a sense of urgency for companies to strive to learn from one another and focus on doing better than their last achievement.
Skroupa: So how does Marriott begin working with partners on human rights?
Rinsche: With Marriott’s new proactive agenda on human rights, we are focusing on different and new ways to partner with external experts to find innovative solutions or scale effective programs. There are so many great organizations in the human rights space. For Marriott, we work with groups that make strategic sense for us that support our human rights goals. For example, we have been able to work closely with non-profits such as ECPAT-USA and Polaris to train on-property associates on the indicators for human trafficking and how to report. Going beyond awareness raising, we are really excited about leveraging our business to fight human trafficking and making meaningful positive impact for victim survivors. Earlier this year, we became the first corporate partner of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery to co-create a survivor training and employability program to empower victim survivors of human trafficking with new tools and opportunities to reach self-sufficiency. Whether a small, medium or large multinational company, we can all strive to be on the forefront of addressing human rights by learning from one another, partnering with experts, and working together to make a bigger impact than on our own. Our CEO said it best in his USA Today article – “Let’s do more by working together.” There is great opportunity for companies of all sizes to come together to address emerging human rights issues, and challenge each other towards the race to the top.
Tu Rinsche will be speaking on a panel entitled Leading the Way: The Role of Multinational Companies in Curbing the Rise and Spread of Forced Labor at the Reframing Human Rights conference in New York, NY on June 27.
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