Céline da Graça Pires
Former Manager, BSR
Céline talked with us about how her family’s migration experiences generated her passion for human rights, her work on current and upcoming legislation in business and human rights, and how working at BSR supports her commitment to protecting the rights of vulnerable groups.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from, and where are you based? What does a day in your life look like? What is your favorite hobby?
I am originally from a tiny village in northern Portugal, and I grew up in a Parisian suburb. I have also lived in Porto, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago, with stints across Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina for project work. I am now based in Paris.
My favorite hobby is laughing! As Chaplin once said: “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” In my spare time, I love swimming, hiking, and cooking. I am also an avid reader and enjoy discovering new places!
How did you first get involved in sustainable business? How long have you been at BSR? What is your current role, and what does that entail?
My family immigrated to France to escape the Portuguese dictatorship and find a better life. I grew up listening to fascinating yet terrible stories of migration, arbitrary arrests, and the fight for freedom, democracy, and inclusion in a new country. These stories sparked an interest that ultimately led to my passion for human rights.
During my internship as a junior legal advisor at Electricité de France, I helped to implement a hydroelectric dam project in Brazil. This experience opened my eyes to many sustainability topics, from social and environmental risk assessments and stakeholder engagement to human rights issues related to renewable energies.
I started my career in Brazil, passed the French bar exam, and practiced at several law firms before working on CSR, human rights, community engagement, free prior and informed consent, and land rights as an independent consultant.
I have been part of BSR’s human rights team for almost three years, and I work with companies on implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Additionally, I support BSR members in implementing recent business and human rights legislation, including the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, and preparing for the upcoming EU mandatory legislation on human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD).
I also work on specific topics, like community engagement and Indigenous Peoples' rights and emerging issues, such as the rights of nature. Business and human rights are fields that are constantly evolving—this is what makes it so interesting to me.
What are some interesting projects that you get to work on as part of your role at BSR? What do you enjoy about them?
I focus on helping companies address their human rights risks, identifying opportunities for positive impact, and interacting with various stakeholders.
I’ve enjoyed conducting human rights assessments with local communities in Chile in the mining sector, even remotely during the pandemic! One of my favorite projects currently is supporting a member through human rights crisis management in conflict-affected areas on the southeast coast of Africa.
What I really enjoy about my work at BSR is that I learn new things about my field every day, but also about myself!
What issues are you passionate about and why? How does your work at BSR reflect that?
My friends and family would say that I am a tireless advocate for fundamental rights; especially for the most vulnerable, equal protection of law, and democracy. These debates are particularly relevant today during the COVID-19 crisis and considering the effects of climate change on future generations. I feel thankful to contribute to protecting the rights of vulnerable groups at BSR.
To dive deeper into this topic, I have also started a PhD in Law at NOVA School of Law and am a Research Associate at the NOVA Centre on Business, Human Rights and the Environment.
BSR is a unique place to work due to the diversity and complexity of business and human rights topics, which we work on while applying a vulnerable groups’ lens.
Adjusting to life during a pandemic can be complicated. What were the things that brought you joy amid the uncertainty and challenges of the past year? What are you looking forward to in 2022?
I am grateful to be in good health and that my family and loved ones are too.
The pandemic was disruptive, but it helped me reprioritize the important (and crazy) things in life. I decided to get married mid-pandemic, and twice! It was certainly a challenge but brought hope and joy amid uncertainty.
I look forward to traveling for field work and reconnecting with local stakeholders again. And dancing again in a crowded bar or dance floor! I’ve missed it!
I hope 2022 will be a year in which citizens strengthen their unity and that we will not see more local division and segregation. Hope and resilience are my two key words for 2022!