Multinational Enterprises and Corporate Social Responsibility

Thousands of voluntary initiatives and codes of conducts have been signed in recent years by companies trying to assert their Corporate Social Responsibility goals. While there is certainly an honest search for some companies, many of these initiatives have no impact on the real life of workers.

The Tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy (MNE Declaration) - 4th Edition remains the only authoritative document adopted unanimously by governments, workers’ and employers’ representatives already in 1977 to provide effective guidance at company level on how enterprises should apply principles deriving from international labour standards concerning employment, training, conditions of work and life and industrial relations.

J. Somavia, celebration of 30th anniversary of MNEs Declaration, November 2007

The MNE Declaration was ahead of its time - Today its common to hear terms like codes of conduct, ethical sourcing guidelines, social or sustainability reporting, socially conscious mutual funds, the list goes on.

But back in the early 70s, it was a time when it seemed highly unlikely that the social partners would achieve consensus on an issue as sensitive as multinational enterprises. It was an extremely polarized era between North and South.

Yet here at the ILO, employers and unions managed to find a way forward with an instrument that was innovative, universal and with a follow-up system through our Governing Body’s Subcommittee on Multinational Enterprises.

Being socially responsible does not mean doing things for workers. It means sitting down and talking about a range of issues with unions and workers representatives. It means dialogue.

Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General

In order to promote the translation of these principles into practice, ACTRAV is among the core ILO units which contribute to the Helpdesk the portal for enterprises, trade unions and governments asking for information, advice or resources about international labour standards and their application.

ACTRAV liaises closely with ITUC , Global Unions , and TUAC in this area of work.