Posted by Stuart Bell

Ergon Update April 2017

A quick review of what we’ve been up to over the past couple of months.

Reports and publications

Modern Slavery Statements: One Year On

Our new analysis looks at a sample of 150 recent modern slavery statements to provide a snapshot of what companies are reporting, and how this compares to disclosures a year ago. The report, Modern slavery statements: One Year On includes:

– analysis of the sectors, locations and sizes of companies reporting
–  description of the due diligence issues covered (policy, risk assessment processes, identified risks, training, performance monitoring)
– length of statements and the level of detail they provide
– good practice examples drawn from our sample group

The analysis is the most up-to-date assessment of how companies are interpreting their reporting obligation, and therefore, a litmus test for the effectiveness of the MSA’s transparency clause. The free report can be downloaded here. You can also read our blog on the results here.

Guidance for business on human rights – EHRC

The UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published two pieces of guidance that Ergon worked on in conjunction with the Institute for Human Rights and Business. The first, Business and human rights: A seven-step guide for managers sets out the key steps managers should follow to help companies identify, mitigate and report on the human rights impacts of their activities. It also provides advice on how companies can meet the requirements of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The second guidance, Handling and resolving human rights complaints about your business, provides practical advice and examples of various sorts of grievance processes aimed at addressing human rights issues for workers, customers and communities. Both guidance notes are aimed at UK businesses primarily.

Business case for women in agriculture – IFC

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has published our report: The Business Case for Women’s Employment in Agribusiness, which examines the drivers for investing in women’s employment in the sector and includes five company case studies across fruit production, fish and poultry processing, seed production and sugarcane processing over four continents. This work was led by Alastair Usher and Kirsten Newitt and was produced in association with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).

Forthcoming and recent events

Stuart Bell and Anne-Marie-Levesque will be speaking and running a workshop on human rights risk assessments at a conference, Reframing Human Rights: Shared Value through Global Corporate Citizenship to be held at Bard College, New York on June 28 and 29, 2017.

Steve Gibbons recently led discussions at a joint Law Society/Ergon/Business & Human Rights Resource Centre interactive workshop on the Modern Slavery Act, designed to develop best practice and share knowledge.

In April Pins Brown facilitated the Global Shea Alliance’s (GSA) annual European conference. The dynamic event was hosted at The Body Shop, and attended by over 65 traders, suppliers, cosmetic companies and NGOs from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

In March, Kirsten Newitt contributed learning from Ergon’s experience to an Oxfam and Unilever International Women’s Day (IWD) event on Why business should care about unpaid care work and social norms. Also in March Pins Brown participated in EBRD’s IWD panel discussion event on Breaking Stereotypes: Paving the Way to Equality.

Human rights due diligence support

Strategic advice, risk assessments and reporting
We have been working on a range of human rights due diligence projects with companies from a variety of sectors. These have included: strategic support on framing corporate approaches to modern slavery, facilitating internal discussions on risk assessments and prioritisation, detailed global supply chain risk analysis across material and product ranges, country rankings on various human rights issues using our exclusive research methodology and benchmarking both modern slavery and broader human rights reporting. Recent clients for these services have been from the hotel, catering, homewear, fresh produce, apparel, and banking sectors.

Country risk briefings
We continue to upgrade and broaden our range of country risk profiles. The latest countries covered include Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Serbia and Georgia, but we have detailed risk and regulatory information available on more than 80 countries. We provide both detailed  (15-20 page ) briefings that analyse labour laws, other regulations and their application in practice both at country level and with a sectoral focus (e.g. garments, fresh produce), and also summary two-pagers identifying the key labour risks and gaps.

Gender and equality work

Gender action plans in Kosovo and Vietnam
In Kosovo Ergon is working with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to support one of its clients, Infrastructure of Kosovo Railways JSC (Infrakos), to improve its gender and age balance. Having developed tailored recommendations Anne-Marie Lévesque has just come back from Pristina where she was providing additional support and training to the company, focusing on strategic people management and specific challenges faced by women in transport.

Kirsten Newitt and Sarah McLeish have also just completed a project commissioned by the World Bank to provide support to Electricity Vietnam (EVN), the state-owned electricity operator, to implement its Gender Action Plan. This included conducting interviews with EVN management representatives and staff in Hanoi.

Business case for childcare
Ergon is working with IWPR on a forthcoming flagship report for IFC, which aims to set out the business case for employer-supported childcare. Kirsten Newitt and Laura Curtze recently visited Turkey to discuss a childcare subsidy pilot with a leading steel manufacturer, while Pins Brown has completed field research in Kenya at a telecommunications company.

Ergon people

We are pleased to welcome Lis Cunha as our latest addition to the Ergon team. Lis has an MA in Human Rights from University College London and has worked for European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She is fluent in English, Portuguese and German.