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Integrating Human Rights Compliance into Corporate Strategy and Operations: The Role of Lawyers

Speaker(s): Ariel Meyerstein, John F. Sherman, Sarah A. Altschuller, Yousuf Aftab
Recorded on: Jan. 28, 2015
PLI Program #: 131450

John F. Sherman III
General Counsel, Senior Advisor and Secretary

John was part of the central team advising Professor John Ruggie, the former UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights from 2008-2011. Drawing on his legal and business experience, John concentrated on developing the integration of human rights due diligence into existing corporate governance, enterprise risk management, compliance and ethics, safety and environmental management, and dispute resolution systems.
John is a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and has advised multinational companies on human rights. Together with David Vermijs, he has conducted human rights due diligence gap analyses for one of the world's largest oil and gas companies, and one of the world's largest transportation companies.

John retired in 2008 as Deputy General Counsel of National Grid, where he was in charge of litigation, environmental, and safety law in the US. He was responsible for the litigation and resolution of thousands of disputes, involving hundreds of millions of dollars and significant public issues, in federal and state courts and agencies and in arbitration and mediation. He had executive responsibilities for compliance and ethics, corporate governance, enterprise risk management, safety and environmental auditing, and corporate social responsibility.

At National Grid, he represented the company at the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights (BLIHR), and was a member of the Executive Advisory Board of the International Institute of Conflict Prevention and Dispute Resolution. John is a member of the UN Global Compact Human Rights Working Group, an Executive Fellow at the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University, and from 2008-2010, was co-chair of the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the International Bar Association.
Prior to joining National Grid, John clerked for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and practiced antitrust and commercial law at Warner & Stackpole in Boston. John is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Dartmouth College, and lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA.

Sarah A. Altschuller
Counsel - Washington, D.C.

Sarah Altschuller has been a member of Foley Hoag’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice since 2003. In this role, she advises multinational companies regarding the development and implementation of CSR strategies, policies, and procedures, as well as compliance with emerging legal and regulatory requirements. Sarah provides counsel regarding engagements with socially responsible investors, government policymakers, local communities, non-governmental organizations, and other key stakeholders.  She also conducts site-level human rights and labor rights impact assessments, as well as due diligence efforts.

Sarah is a leading contributor to the firm's Corporate Social Responsibility and the Law blog.

Sarah’s in-depth practical experience includes post-law school studies at North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2002–2003), where she conducted research on working conditions in the garment sector. Before entering law school Sarah conducted social research on publicly-traded domestic and international companies at KLD Research & Analytics, a socially responsible investment firm, currently part of MSCI, Inc.


  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Federal Government Strategies
  • General Business Counseling
  • International Business
  • Nonprofit
  • Privacy & Data Security


  • Harvard Law School, J.D., 2002
  • Williams College, B.A., magna cum laude, 1997

Bar Admissions

  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • District of Columbia

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

Yousuf Aftab
New York

Yousuf is the founder and principal of Enodo Rights. He has extensive experience with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and has previously served as counsel to UN Global Compact and Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. Before starting Enodo Rights, Yousuf specialized in private and public international law at leading international firms, including Latham & Watkins in New York and Torys in Toronto. He has represented prominent companies in mining, finance, technology and alternative energy before international tribunals and courts in New York and Ontario.

Yousuf also has public sector experience as a clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada, where he assisted Justice Rosalie Abella in examining complex issues of human rights and private law.

Yousuf has published and presented on business and human rights and international law. He is currently writing a text on a practical understanding of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

  • Yousuf has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Politics from McGill University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He is fluent in French and Urdu, and speaks some Spanish.

Recent Publications

  • Beyond Social License: Legal Risks of CSR for Mining Companies, SR Mining (November 2013)
  • Choc v. Hudbay: The Emerging International Standard for Human Rights Due Diligence and Response, Commercial Litigation and Arbitration Review (November 2013)
  • Equator Principles III and the Legal Dimension of CSR, (with Michael Torrance) Commercial Litigation and Arbitration Review (August 2013)
  • Why We Volunteer: Corporate Responsibility, Human Rights and the UN Global Compact, (with Ursula Wynhoven) In-House Defense Quarterly (Winter 2013)
  • The Importance of Voluntarism for Corporate Responsibility, UN Global Compact
  • Lago Agria Comes to Canada, Commercial Litigation and Arbitration Review (August 2012)

Recent Presentations

  • A New Model for Stakeholder Engagement Incorporating Human Rights, UNICEF, Geneva (2013)
  • Emerging CSR Legal Risks for Oil and Gas Companies, IPIECA Meeting, Geneva (2013)
  • Beyond Social License: Responsible mining in light of the Guiding Principles, SR Mining Conference, Santiago (2013)
  • Human Rights and the Evolution of CSR, McGill University, Montreal (2013)
  • A Legal Analysis of Ruggie's Second Pillar, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility Conference (2011)

Ariel Meyerstein is responsible for USCIB policy and programs on corporate responsibility, international labor standards and corporate governance. He manages USCIB engagement with its affiliated organizations – the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD – as well as U.S. government agencies and United Nations agencies on international corporate responsibility principles, codes of conduct and multi-stakeholder initiatives, as well as international and transnational regulatory activities on labor and employment policies, sustainable development and corporate governance.

Meyerstein joined USCIB in 2014, with a background in international dispute resolution, human rights and sustainable development. He has published several articles and book chapters on various aspects of human rights law, including war crimes, refugees, transitional justice and the integration of human rights into financial sector risk assessment processes. Prior to joining USCIB, Meyerstein was an associate at Chadbourne & Park, LLP and before that at Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP. He also served as a legal adviser at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal and as a judicial clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He holds a law degree and a doctorate in jurisprudence and social policy from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in English and human rights from Columbia University.