2018 Finalist in the ‘Agenda Setter of the Year’ category for the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards

Pillar Two Founder - Vanessa Zimmerman

Pillar Two Founder - Vanessa Zimmerman

Vanessa is a recognised global and domestic corporate sustainability expert focusing on human rights.

For the past twelve years, Vanessa has built an international profile writing and presenting on business and human rights, and the wider sustainability discourse at over 100 events in ten countries, alongside high level business, government, investor and civil society representatives. In 2016 she was recognised as one of 100 Australian Women of Influence and was shortlisted to join the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

Originally an anti-trust lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons, Australia’s pre-eminent law firm, she specialised in business and human rights, working for five years as a Legal Advisor to the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, Harvard Professor John Ruggie. This included being part of the core team drafting the internationally recognised UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

Vanessa has advised other key global business and human rights initiatives such as the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), the UN Global Compact, and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights. She has also worked with Australian business from a variety of sectors, the Australian government and civil society. For the past seven years Vanessa has managed implementation of the human rights strategy at Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining companies. She recently founded Pillar Two, an advisory firm helping business to take an integrated and practical approach to managing their human rights risks, as well as guiding governments on how to support businesses in this work.

Vanessa holds various expert advisory roles including as Board Member of the Global Compact Network Australia and Chair of its Human Rights Leadership Group and Modern Slavery Community of Practice. Vanessa is also a member of the Global Reporting Initiative’s Technical Committee on Human Rights Disclosure and was appointed to the Australian government’s Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group on Business and Human Rights and the Australian National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery.  Vanessa is also an IHRB Research Fellow.

Vanessa has a Master of Laws from Harvard University, Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Bachelor of Arts (Japanese) from Monash University in Australia.