On October 30th Global Compact Network Sweden held a roundtable on Engagement and Dialogue on Decent Work in a Global Context together with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Mannheimer Swartling in Stockholm.
The event was fully booked with nearly 50 participants representing a wide range of companies, both from sustainability and procurement as well as lawyers. The focus of the meeting was Decent work and aimed at exploring how companies can take actions and develop tools that will have impacts on workers’ lives.
Maria Collin, Executive Director of GCNS welcomed the members and gave an introduction to the UN Global Compact and the Swedish network.
The first speaker of the day was Eva Karlsson, CEO of Houdini Sportswear. Eva gave an interesting presentation about Houdini’s overall approach to sustainability as deeply integrated to the core business, with the planetary boundaries, Oxfam’s donut and the SDGs as a basis for the company’s sustainability work.
Eva stated that today, clothes aren’t used, they are consumed. As an example On average, garments are worn 7-10 times in the western world, compare to the global average of 140 times, whereas the average use of Houdini garments is closer to 1300 times. Eva acknowledged that Houdini’s products might be expensive, but pointed out that “it’s expensive to care!”.
From a value chain perspective Eva said that Houdini’s success factors for a sustainable value chain is long-term relations with the suppliers based on trust, transparency and shared values and goals. In terms of environmental impact, Eva asked the question: “Did we lose common sense in business?” and stressed the need for businesses to “reconnect with nature”.
Mari-lou Dupont, Senior Manager, Decent Work and Supply Chain Sustainability at UN Global Compact visited GCNS from the UNGC head office in New York and introduced the UNGC’s Action Platform on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains as well as the Engagement Toolkit on Decent Work.
The rationale behind the action platform is that Global Supply chains are of the most important levers for business to create positive impact in the world, with an estimated 80% of global trade passing through them annually. The action platform has been running for two years and is intended to provide members a way to engage on a more international level.
Furthermore, Mari-Lou presented the Engagement Toolkit for Responsible Procurement as the “masterpiece” of the action platform. The toolkit will be launched in February 2020 and made publicly available. It is intended to enable procurement staff and their suppliers to take action for improved conditions for workers in supply chains, by increasing understanding and facilitating dialogue with suppliers.
The participant also got to share their view on the biggest risks and challenges when it comes to Decent Work, which included issues such as modern slavery, child labour, excessive overtime and working with suppliers further upstream rather than 1st tier supplier. A key take away from the presentation was the importance of integrating Decent Work in procurement decisions.
Next the participants got to listen to how Volvo Cars work with Decent Work in their supply chain. As one of the founding companies of UN Global Compact, Volvo has also been active in the Decent Work Action Platform from the start. Pernilla Eriksson, Procurement Sustainability Manager and Anna-Maria Ericsson, Labour Affairs Expert held gave a very concrete insight into Volvo’s work.
Volvo engage in the action platform since the company realise that a great part of the company’s impact comes from the supply chain, as 70 % of added value comes from external suppliers.
As part of Volvo’s work with Decent Work, they have identified supplier stakeholders with exposure to supply chain challenges and initiated engagement forums over a 2 year period where the focus is on dialogue.
Pernilla and Anna-Maria gave examples of very practical ways to engage the issues together with their suppliers. Volvo has initiated two active engagement forums; “Grievance channels”, which aims to improve ways to report irregularities, and a forum focusing on mitigating risks of forced labour.
The event also included an interactive session where the participants got to discuss and try to resolve different dilemmas around Decent Work, which resulted in many interesting perspectives and ideas around the table.
The seminar was concluded with a presentation of UN Global Compact overarching strategies and values proposition by Thorin Schriber, Participant Engagement Manager from the UN Global Compact Office in New York. Thorin set the scene by showing examples of how sustainability is becoming a prerequisite for long-term success for companies. He explained UNGC’s mission to spread and implement the Ten Principles and the SDGs and gave examples of how new sectors use the Ten Principles: e.g. Blackrock, one of the world’s largest asset managers has started to use the Ten Principles to screen there assets.
UNGC has identified companies’ need for tools and education to advance their work which is provided through the Academy. Going forward, UNGC will continue to build trust and promote transparency, support in meeting the SDG’s and work to shape the global agenda. In 2020, UNGC’s biggest focus will be on gender equality and closing the gender gap.
Thorin closed the event by emphasising on the importance of leaderships, giving Greta Thunberg’s speech at UN General Assembly as an example witnessed first hand. “Everything is about leadership”.