ILO discusses the role of cooperatives in promoting Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW) in value chains

The ILO was invited to participate and present in the panel “Strengthening our Cooperative Identity by supporting ethical value chain management” organized in the framework of the ICA’s 33rd World Cooperative Congress.

News | 15 December 2021
A session on “Strengthening our Cooperative Identity by supporting ethical value chain management” was organized on 2 December at the 33rd World Cooperative Congress. It brought together panellists from different organizations to discuss the role of cooperatives in ensuring ethical supply chains.

The ILO’s Chief of FPRW’s Branch, Mr Philippe Vanhuynegem, presented on the basic concepts, challenges in compliance and emerging trends in responsible business conduct. He provided an overview of FPRW: elimination of forced labour and child labour, non-discrimination, and the promotion of freedom of association and collective bargaining. He shared data of prevalence (25 million people in forced labour and 160 million children in child labour).

M Vanhuynegem also presented the emerging trends on responsible business conduct and how cooperatives are related to them. These trends include: increasing legislation on mandatory due diligence in countries such as the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and at the level of regional bodies such as the European Union; rethinking business models, management systems and purchasing practices that create a pressure on small businesses such as producer cooperatives; the increasing role of the financial sector where financial cooperatives and other financial institutions may have an influence on the way companies are doing business; and traceability and data challenges to detect violations of FPRW to respond to increased concern of businesses to get information on practices of their commercial partners.

M Vanhuynegem concluded by emphazising the important role of the cooperative movement in promoting FPRW by becoming a strong business partner in implementing due diligence programmes, influencing the way of production among their members which is respectful of FPRW, and supporting better traceability in supply chains by being a reliable commercial partner, among others. He made a call to cooperatives to join forces in the fight against child labour and forced labour by becoming members of the Alliance 8.7, a global partnership committed to achieving target 8.7 of the 2030 sustainable development goals, and the ILO Child Labour Platform and Global Business Network on Forced Labour.

Other speakers at the panel shared their own organizations’ experiences with cooperatives in advancing ethical supply chains. The Managing Director of Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters (KCC), Jane Kathuku, spoke about ethical coffee value chain management in Kenyan Coops. Mayuko Asahina, the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU)’s Director of Brand Strategy shared information on Japanese CO·OP Brand Products, explaining that these products, have been promoting ethical consumption for sixty years. Nina Elomaa, the Senior Vice-President of Sustainability at Finnish retailing cooperative organisation SOK/ S Group, focused on the Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence(HREDD) legislation in Europe. Anne Chappaz, the Chief of Institutions and Ecosystems at the International Trade Centre, shared insights on efforts to upscale coop to coop trade.