BTS speaker Q&A: Peter Frankental, Amnesty International

Buying Business Travel presents a quick-fire Q&A with Business Travel Show speaker Peter Frankental, economic relations programme director at Amnesty International

What kind of work does Amnesty International do?
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of ordinary people standing up for human rights. We undertake research and advocacy to help bring about a world in which everyone enjoys all the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty’s work has expanded continuously from its foundation in 1961 by a British lawyer who wanted to advocate for the release of Prisoners of Conscience. Today the scope of our work includes torture, the death penalty, disappearances, the rights of indigenous peoples, refugees, women and those who identify themselves as LGBTI. We work on the frontline in many countries to bear witness to human rights violations and take testimonies from those affected. These form the basis of our global advocacy, which is directed at national, regional and inter-governmental levels.

While states are the main focus of Amnesty’s work, increasingly non-state actors come into play, including companies, warlords and armed opposition groups.

Tell us about your role.
I work for the British Section of Amnesty International on the human rights impacts of corporations, which is a growing area of activity. Bad business behaviour, driven by economic interests and commercial gain, is a cause of injustice and suffering in many parts of the world.  Even in the UK, moderns forms of slavery have been documented in the construction, care and hospitality industries, in fruit picking and car washing, and in the processing of fish and meat.

How does the topic of human rights tie into the corporate world?
National and international laws have not kept pace with the power and global reach of today’s companies. States remain unwilling or unable to hold companies to account. That is why we are calling for legislation to create a new corporate duty to prevent human rights and environmental abuses. Such laws would require companies to take action to prevent harm arising from their global products, services, operations, investments and value chains. This is known as Human Rights Due Diligence. It is a concept embodied in the  UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. These have the support of governments, industry bodies, trade unions and civil society organisations.

Could that apply to business travel too?
Any form of travel could put individuals and communities at risk. The hotels in which business travellers are staying could be built on land from which local people have been forcibly evicted in violation of their rights. The water consumed by hotel guests, including for watering golf courses, could be depriving local farmers of their livelihoods. The staff serving business travellers, in particular chambermaids, could be victims of modern forms of slavery. The aircraft on which they travel could contain refugees suffering panic attacks as a consequence of being deported to countries where they would be in danger. Or the hotels they stay in could be locations where children are sexually exploited. In reality, there are numerous situations where business travel could contribute to human rights violations or be linked to these in some way.

Why should Business Travel Show attendees carve out time for your session?
Forewarned is forearmed!  The sands are shifting rapidly with regard to business ethics, which means that companies that ignore the human rights context of their operations could be snared by issues they weren’t aware of. The more that norms of acceptable business behaviour change, the more risk to companies that take a ‘business as usual’ approach.

Peter Frankental will be part of a panel discussion entitled “Is it time to introduce an ethical travel programme?” chaired by long-time BBT writer Amon Cohen during the Business Travel Show’s Hosted Buyer Conference on 25 February at 1:30pm. To apply to attend as a hosted buyer, visit businesstravelshow.com/hosted-buyers

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