Jennings to OECD: ‘there is a deficit in responsible business conduct’
Watch the full session here
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings took part in the ‘Responsible Business Conduct’ panel the OECD Forum in Paris this week. The session coincided with the 40th anniversary of the OECD Guidelines for Multinationals.
Jennings told the panel, which included Sodexho CEO, Michel Landel, WWF CEO Pascal Canfin and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, that there was a deficit in responsible business conduct and that there was a need for the OECD Guidelines to be taken seriously in the boardroom to improve corporate behaviour.
“We recognise there is a grievance mechanism in place which we welcome. However, the performance of national contact points is uneven and have they really paid attention to the call by the G7 to improve performance? If there are no consequences how will behaviour change? Wherever the NCPs are given the authority, are able to conduct investigations, take the opportunity to use mediation, then we see the Guidelines work in spirit and practice,” Jennings explained.
Jennings continued, “The energy that we spend in trying to get businesses to behave responsibly is enormous. There is a responsible business conduct deficit. If you want to put a template around corporate decision making this is dominated by short term investor return. It often leads to malpractice and irresponsibility.”
Jennings praised the OECD Guidelines as “priceless” but said they had to be improved in terms of enforceability, comparing them with what the Bangladesh Accord has achieved in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy.
Jennings said, “The day before the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed, the workers went on strike. They said this factory was not safe. They were forced to go back to work. The factory collapsed and 1,130 people lost lives. We said we wanted to change the rules of the game.
“We started by looking at the OECD guidelines. They do not go far enough. The consequences of poor behaviour were not taken seriously enough. We launched a campaign to convince the garment industry to change the rules of the game. And with IndustriALL and now 200 brands we succeeded.
“We did this with the energy, determination and with key business leaders that things had to change.”
Jennings told the high level panel that UNI Global Union was also changing business conduct through global framework agreements and that the OECD Guidelines should promote GFAs more effectively. Companies have a duty to respect human rights to avoid adverse consequences to have due diligence processes in place – global framework agreements bring these principles alive.
“We look to OECD governments and the OECD itself to find resources to build capacity and to convince the business community that this makes great business,” Jennings concluded.
At the end of the session Jennings and Kailash Satyarthi* made a joint call for child labour to be eradicated in the next ten years.
* Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for the work his has done through his children’s charity, saving over 80,000 Indian children from virtual slavery. He has campaigned for 34 years to end child labour and has transformed more than 350 Indian villages into places where children can receive an education rather than be sent out to work.
Also at the OECD Forum in Paris, the ITUC released a new poll showing that multinational companies are putting the brakes on global growth with a business model built on low wages.
Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the ITUC, said “45 percent of working families can't participate in the economy - nearly half the population in nine of the world's largest economies have no money to spend. We call that in-work poverty for families."
"GDP has trebled over three decades but corporate greed has captured the wealth of workers'' contribution through a model of global trade that relies on low wages, insecure and unsafe work. This is destroying the lives of working families and ironically undermining global corporations themselves as they face shrinking markets.”
Read the 2016 ITUC Frontline Poll on Wages and Inequality http://www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-frontlines-poll-2016-special-17327
Read the 2016 ITUC Frontline Poll on Supply Chains http://www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-frontlines-poll-2016-special
The ILO recently released a report “Decent Work in Global Supply Chains” as a background paper to the International Labour Conference which opened this week in Geneva. UNI Global Union with its sister global union IndustriALL will be holding a session at the ILC on the Bangladesh Accord as a blueprint and a game changer for decent work in supply chains. The UNI Commerce Global steering committee has also been meeting this week at UNI head office in Nyon and discussed ways to make multinationals more accountable for their supply chains. The UNI General Secretary will address the ILC later in the conference.