National Workshop on Sustainable and Responsible Business Practices for the realization of decent work

South Africa

Article | Johannesburg | 06 October 2023
South Africa’s Department of Employment and Labour in partnership with the ILO, hosted a 3-day tripartite workshop and dialogue session to develop a national roadmap for the promotion of sustainable and responsible business practices and investments. National roadmaps developed by ILO Constituents seek to promote decent work and social justice based on the guidance provided by the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration).

The tripartite workshop enhanced the capacities of national departments and government agencies, employers' and workers' organizations to mobilize the potential of multinational and national enterprises to contribute to the achievement of Decent Work for All (SDG 8) and the advancement of social justice using the guidance provided by the ILO MNE Declaration.

The workshop involved a range of participants including senior officials from the Department of Employment and Labour, officials from the Departments of Justice, Trade, Industry and Competition and other governmental agencies with a mandate on trade, investment, and enterprises development such as the Industrial Development Cooperation, Productivity SA, representatives of employers’ organizations, such as Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) and the National Business Initiative and workers’ organizations such as the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) as well as the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).

The Acting DDG for Labour Policy & Industrial Relations of the Department of Employment and Labour, Mr. Sipho Ndebele stressed in his opening remarks that ”It is through this collective effort that we will forge a path towards more humane and sustainable business practices. Together, we have the power to redefine the landscape of business, forging a path towards a future marked by fairness, equity, and respect for all. Let us be the architects of a future where businesses not only prosper but do so in harmony with the wellbeing and dignity of all workers.”

Mr Ndebele further emphasised that some of the principles of the MNE Declaration are very relevant to the South African context for improved social cohesion, to promote job creation, enhance social security, develop skills, and ensure safe and healthy working environments.
Highlighting one of the key objectives for the workshop, on how the MNE Declaration complements other instruments and initiatives to promote sustainable, responsible and inclusive business practices and investments for the realization of decent work, Business Unity South Africa representative, Ms Sanelisiwe Jantijies, remarked: “This week’s agenda is central to the mandate of business. The MNE Declaration provides clear guidance on how enterprises can contribute through their operations worldwide to the realization of decent work. Businesses are aware of the significant responsibility that the private sector needs to shoulder with regards to social responsibility and accountability to workers.”

FEDUSA Secretary General, Ms Riefdah Ajam shared the realities of workers in her opening remarks and stressed that “The Declaration that brings us all together this morning, is direct in its stipulated roles for all players, with multinational enterprises, with emphasis on those operating in developing countries compelled to endeavour to increase employment opportunities and standards, considering policies and objectives of governments.”.”

Representing the ILO, Ms Maria Machailo-Molebatsi stressed in her opening remarks that “The MNE Declaration provides clear guidance on how enterprises can contribute through their operations to the realization of decent work” and she continued by saying that “South Africa has a very important role to play in the SADC sub-region because it is both a host and a home for multinationals. Many of the smaller SADC member states are looking to South Africa for best practices in terms of responsible business and promotion of decent work.”
The participants agreed to recommend to Nedlac to be the tripartite national focal point for the promotion of the MNE Declaration and the development of a national code of practice for multinational and national enterprises on decent work and social protection. The meeting further agreed on the elements of a national roadmap for the promotion of the MNE Declaration.