The following is a Q&A between Melike Yetken Krilla, Head of International Organizations at Google and the Meridian Corporate Council. This conversation can be found in our recently launched Corporate Systemic Responsibility Report which was the first outcome of our new Responsible Business Diplomacy initiative. To download the report and read other testimonies, click here.
You lead Google’s work with International Organizations (IOs) like the United Nations, the OECD, and the World Health Organization — why are IOs a priority for a company like Google?
Whether it’s a global health pandemic, climate change, or developing solutions to benefit the health of the economy, many of the problems of our era can only be effectively addressed by collaboration and we think technology can help. We’ve recently seen how technology-enabled solutions like smartphone-based exposure notifications can support public health authorities in the fight against COVID-19, machine-learning models can reduce energy consumption, and AI can address cybersecurity challenges posed by hackers and spam. We at Google are proud to be investing billions in R&D each year to innovate new technologies to help address the world’s biggest cross-border challenges.
Our relationship with international organizations is a two-way street. Our development of new technologies is guided by multilateral frameworks like the United Nations (UN) Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. More broadly, we, like every company, benefit from the good work done by institutions ranging from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the World Bank in securing public health, strengthening the global economy, and resolving conflict. And we value international organizations’ ability to shape global agendas and drive multistakeholder consensus — like how the OECD is working to reform global tax regimes or the World Trade Organization is working to promote a framework for digital trade.
How do organizations like the United Nations help shape how companies work to uphold their corporate policies towards things like human rights?
Google has a mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, and in 2004 we went public with a promise to “develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible.” The long-term human rights agenda at Google must have this ambition to expand opportunities at its core and be fundamentally optimistic about the power of innovative technology to empower billions of people.
For example, by making the world’s information universally accessible we can support the right of everyone to freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. By making the world’s information useful we can support the enjoyment of many other rights, such as the rights to health, education, or cultural life.
Companies should work closely with civil society, academics, investors, and industry peers to inform how they can best respect and potentially advance rights — one way we do this is through our engagement in the multi-stakeholder organization, Global Network Initiative (GNI).
Google’s work on human rights is conducted through our Human Rights Program, a central function responsible for ensuring — across Google and all its products (such as hardware, Search, Cloud and YouTube) — that we are meeting our commitment to the UN Guiding Principles, GNI Principles and other civil and human rights instruments.