18 Sep, 2021

In Memory of
John G. Ruggie


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of John G. Ruggie, at the age of 76.

John Ruggie touched many minds and hearts, and leaves behind a towering legacy of thought leadership in human rights and social innovation. As an intellectual, he greatly influenced global affairs at the intersection of a globalizing world, with a particular concern for societal implications. As a social innovator, and as policy advisor to former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, John played a critical role in launching the UN Global Compact in 2000, which has since become the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. He was also a driving force behind successful institutional reform and renewal at the UN, for which the United Nations as a whole were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

That same year, John left the United Nations for the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he served as Berthold Beitz Research Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, although he kept in close touch with the UN organization. In 2005, Annan appointed Ruggie as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, tasked with proposing measures to strengthen the human rights performance of the global business sector. In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council, in an unprecedented step, unanimously endorsed the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” that John developed through extensive consultations, pilot projects and research. The ‘Ruggie Principles’ have since made their way into numerous national legislations and have helped shape the progress of human rights in business in the 21st century.

John was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and received numerous awards from academic and professional societies for his contributions to social science, public policy, and the development of international law. During the last years of his life, John chaired the board of the non-profit organization Shift, and served on the Board of Arabesque where his wit and principles-based approach to markets guided strategies and operations.

Georg Kell, Chairman of Arabesque and founding Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, today said:

“John Ruggie was my mentor and friend for nearly three decades. I can think of no other person whose mind and heart could span so many geographies and disciplines. During his years at the UN, it was not difficult to locate him in the building – one had to just follow the sound of his unique laughter, which cheered up diplomats and bureaucrats alike! And more recently, it was energizing to engage with John on the role of new technologies for a more sustainable world. He had a beautiful and curious mind, but most of all a kind heart.”

“John’s career as an academic and a social innovator is an inspiration to all young people who look for purpose. His principles-based approach to all matters of decision-making is a role model for us all.”

John, you will be greatly missed. We will not forget you, and we will continue to grow your legacy. The good fight for fairness, respect, understanding and reason will go on.