Over the last two decades of a 38-year career, Bennett Freeman has worked at the intersection of governments, international institutions, multinational corporations, responsible investors and NGOs to promote human rights and sustainable development around the world. An innovative leader in the fields of business and human rights, natural resource governance and responsible investment, he has played key roles in developing several multi-stakeholder initiatives and global standards that have strengthened corporate responsibility in industries from extractives to information and communications technology.
Freeman consults for major corporations, foundations and NGOs through Bennett Freeman Associates LLC, as a Senior Advisor for BSR, a Senior Advisor for Critical Resource and a Strategic Partner of RESOLVE. He is the lead author of Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders published by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) and International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in September 2018.
Freeman is Chair, Advisory Board, Global Witness; Chair, Advisory Board, the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN); Chair, EG Justice; co-founder and Steering Committee member of the Cotton Campaign. Freeman was a founding Trustee/International Advisory Board member of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) from 2009-15 and co-founded the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) in 2013, serving on its Advisory Council through 2019. He co-founded and served as Board Secretary of the Global Network Initiative (GNI) from 2010-20. He served on the Governing Board of the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI, formerly the Revenue Watch Institute) from 2008-19; the Board of Oxfam America (OA) from 2002-10; and represented Oxfam on the Board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) from 2006-09. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
As Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy at Calvert Investments from April 2006-April 2015, he led the Bethesda MD-based firm’s environmental, social and governance research for over 40 funds, developed investment themes for new funds, and directed its shareholder advocacy and public policy initiatives. He established or reinforced Calvert’s leadership on Sudan divestment and human rights in Burma; extractive revenue transparency and conflict minerals; Internet freedom of expression and privacy; climate policy and water sustainability; corporate board diversity and workplace gender equity.
As Managing Director at Burson-Marsteller from May 2003-March 2006, he led the Global Corporate Responsibility practice and advised multinational corporations on policy development, stakeholder engagement and communications strategies related to human rights, labor practices and sustainable development. As Principal of Sustainable Investment Strategies, he co-authored the first-ever human rights impact assessment (HRIA) focused on BP’s Tangguh project in West Papua, Indonesia.
Freeman served as a presidential appointee in three positions at the U.S. Department of State in the Clinton Administration. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from April 1999-January 2001, Freeman directed the State Department’s bilateral human rights diplomacy. In that position, he also led the year-long multi-stakeholder dialogue and negotiations to develop and launch the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights as the global human rights standard for oil, gas and mining companies. Freeman directed the Department’s diplomacy and historical research related to Holocaust-era assets as Senior Advisor to Under Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Stuart Eizenstat from April 1997-March 1999. He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and chief speechwriter for Secretary of State Warren Christopher from April 1993-January 1997.
Freeman was Manager-Corporate Affairs for GE in the Fairfield, Connecticut corporate headquarters and the Washington corporate government relations office from February 1985-April 1993. He began his career as a presidential campaign speechwriter and aide for former Vice President Walter Mondale from February 1982-November 1984.
He earned an AB in History (Highest Honors and Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979 and an MA (Honours) in Modern History from the University of Oxford in 1981, where he was a Churchill Scholar at Balliol College.