Vanessa Zimmerman

Chair, Business and Human Rights, UN Global Compact Network Australia; CEO, Pillar Two

Vanessa is a recognised global corporate sustainability expert.

Originally an anti-trust lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons, she was 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. Vanessa has also advised other key global business and human rights initiatives including the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), the UN Global Compact, and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights and worked with businesses from multiple sectors. This included managing Rio Tinto’s human rights programme for 10 years.

Vanessa holds various expert advisory roles including as Board Member of the Global Compact Network Australia and Chair of Human Rights and its Modern Slavery Community of Practice. She has been appointed to several Australian government expert advisory groups including the Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group, the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery and the Governance and Advisory Board to the Australian National Contact under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, based in Cth Treasury. She was a member of the Global Reporting Initiative’s Technical Committee on Human Rights Disclosure and is an officer of the International Bar Association’s Business and Human Rights Committee and a member of the Development in the Field panel for Cambridge University’s Business and Human Rights Journal. Vanessa is also an IHRB Research Fellow.

In 2016 Vanessa was recognised as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence and was shortlisted to join the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. In 2018 she was a finalist in the Agenda Setter of the Year category in the Australian Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. In 2022 Vanessa joined Chief Executive Women Australia, a network of over 900 members holding leading roles in Australia’s largest private and public organisations working to support gender equity and the current and next generation of Australian female leaders.

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