GENEVA/WASHINGTON (ILO/IFC News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private sector arm of the World Bank Group – have selected Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to lead an international buyers’ consultative forum for their joint global Better Work programme.
The forum will play a major role in efforts by the newly created Better Work programme to improve labour practices and competitiveness in global supply chains. It will facilitate the involvement of international buyers with the programme at both the global and country level.
Better Work is developing global tools and is piloting three country projects, in Jordan, Lesotho and Viet Nam with the full cooperation of workers’ and employers’ organisations. The project combines enterprise assessments of compliance with labour standards at the factory level, with training and capacity building. The three pilot projects alone will directly benefit over 800,000 workers.
“The Better Work programme is about fairer globalisation and reducing poverty in developing countries. It is designed to improve the working conditions in global supply chains while improving competitiveness and the business case. International buyers have a critical role in this process by supporting improvements in their own supply chains”, said Ros Harvey, ILO and IFC Better Work Global Programme Manager.
BSR is a leading non-profit business association in the field of corporate social responsibility and counts among its members more than 250 of the world’s largest international buyers across a range of industries. It has offices in San Francisco, Europe, China and Hong Kong.
BSR will work with international buyers to convene global strategic meetings, coordinate consultative processes, disseminate information and lessons learned, and encourage active participation from buyers in the Better Work programme. The ILO and IFC will work together with BSR to reduce duplication of monitoring and redirect efforts to fixing problems in global supply chains.
BSR already works with international buyers and the ILO and IFC in Cambodia on the Better Factories Cambodia project, which inspired the creation of Better Work. This Better Work approach has led to verified improvements in working conditions across the Cambodian garment industry, the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs, and sustained increases in exports to the United States and the European Union.
Since the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA), jobs in Cambodia’s garment export market have increased by nearly 30 per cent despite concerns that the industry would be decimated. In the first year after the lifting of quotas, international buyers involved in the programme increased exports at twice the industry average.
Under its this agreement, BSR will coordinate international buyers involvement with Better Work in industries such as apparel and textiles, agribusiness at both plantation and processing levels, electronic, and other light manufacturing.
“There is a strong need to develop strategic approaches to achieve systematic, sustainable improvements in working conditions”, said Tara Rangarajan, BSR Director of Advisory Services. “Better Work is designed to achieve these results and we are delighted to be able to work with the ILO and IFC to achieve this goal. As an increasing number of international buyers across industries seek to shift from their historic reliance on monitoring, they are eager to participate in credible efforts like this.”
Ms. Harvey said, “Better Work’s tools and country-specific programs will enable us to work together with government, international buyers, employers and workers’ organisations on shared models that promote sustainable impact at the national level. Future developments rely on the collaboration of partners at the national level with international buyers. Only through broad-based engagement can we find practical tools and solutions that are based on actual experience. We need to measure what we do, and identify what works and what doesn’t. Through this process we will build support for change.”
For more information, visit www.betterwork.org or contact:
About the ILO
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to advancing opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Its main aims are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue in handling work-related issues.
In promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, the organization continues to pursue its founding mission that labour peace is essential to prosperity. Today the ILO helps advance the creation of decent jobs and the kinds of economic and working conditions that give working people and business people a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress. For more information, visit www.ilo.org.
The International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, is the largest multilateral provider of financing for private enterprise in developing countries. IFC finances private sector investments, mobilizes capital in international financial markets, facilitates trade, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides advisory services to businesses and governments. From its founding in 1956 through FY06, IFC has committed more than $56 billion of its own funds for private sector investments in the developing world and mobilized an additional $25 billion in syndications for 3,531 companies in 140 developing countries. With the support of funding from donors, it has also provided more than $1 billion in advisory services. Energy efficiency is a core product line for IFC. In 2006, IFC has invested over $400 million in energy efficiency programs world wide. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.
Since 1992, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) has been providing socially responsible business solutions to many of the world’s leading corporations. Headquartered in San Francisco and with offices in Europe, China and Hong Kong, BSR is a nonprofit business association that serves its 250 member companies and other Global 1000 enterprises. Through advisory services, convenings and research, BSR works with corporations and stakeholders to create a more just and sustainable global economy. For more information, visit www.bsr.org.