February 04, 2021

(L to R: Dr. Shawn MacDonald and Chris Pilkerton)

On January 27, 2021, Catholic Law’s Compliance, Investigations & Corporate Responsibility (CICR) Program hosted its second webinar in a series focused on accountability and human rights. Aimed at addressing issues that impact human lives in both the United States and abroad, the evening webinar, “Business Accountability for Human Rights: Social Responsibility & Small Business” focused its attention particularly on human rights efforts and support of small businesses. Dean Stephen C. Payne welcomed the group and outlined the impact of discussing social responsibility and its alignment with the mission of the Law School. Professor Sarah Duggin, Director of the CICR Program, moderated the discussion along with Catholic Law alumnus Daniel Kane ’15, whose new firm, the Law Office of Daniel T. Kane PLLC, provides greater access to counsel for startups and small businesses in New York State and across the country.

Duggin introduced the topic of the role of small businesses in society and the global economy and discussed the role of small businesses in the United States. Kane then introduced the event’s esteemed panelists. Chris Pilkerton ’99 recently completed work as Senior White House Policy Advisor and Executive Director of the White House Opportunity Now Initiative. He has served as the Acting Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, as General Counsel of the U.S. Small Business Administration, as Chief Compliance Officer for J. P. Morgan Chase, as a partner in two law firms, and as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and the Office of Money Laundering and Tax Crimes. Dr. Shawn MacDonald is CEO of Verité, a civil society organization that works to promote workers’ rights in global supply chains through research, consulting, training, assessments, and policy advocacy. Before his appointment as CEO in 2016, Shawn had led Verité’s research, program, and policy work since 2003. MacDonald has broad international and domestic experience in labor rights, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, workplace health, and multi-sector partnerships.

The program began with opening remarks from each of the panelists. Pilkerton provided a brief overview of small business in America today, some characteristics of what makes a successful small business, and discussed the role small businesses play in their communities. He particularly emphasized the importance of communities supporting small businesses, noting that it is a two-way street. MacDonald then gave an overview of the particular issues small businesses face regarding corporate responsibility as they work to fit into and serve community needs. He noted that while discussions of corporate responsibility often emphasize larger businesses, globally, the economy is dominated by small businesses. MacDonald added that in many countries, small businesses have less governmental oversight and fewer resources—tend not to have support mechanisms or accountability mechanisms to help small businesses meet expectations.

(L to R: Sarah Duggin and Daniel Kane)

Kane then moderated a deeper discussion of three notable topic areas. Topic one focused on the nature of social roles and corporate responsibility in small businesses—including how to define corporate social responsibility, opportunities for small businesses to engage in their local communities, and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on small businesses. Topic two highlighted important resources and tools available to small businesses to assist in engaging in responsible practices. MacDonald and Pilkerton both noted several SBA and Verité websites and apps designed to provide compliance support and help small businesses stay financially sound—most services being offered free of charge. The third topic covered the role of constituents—owners, employers, investors, consumers, and the public—in making socially responsible decisions.

The final segment of the program was devoted to a Q&A segment—providing those in attendance with an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists. As the program drew to its conclusion Duggin and Kane once again thanked Pilkerton and MacDonald for their time and expertise.

The CICR Program looks forward to continuing this web series. The next program installment will be held on March 25, 2021.