Posted by Stuart Bell

Ergon Update October 2021

Welcome to Ergon’s regular newsletter covering our work in the business and human rights space over the past six months. We are proud to have been working with many innovative and committed clients on a wide range of research, advisory and learning assignments, from supply chain impact assessments through to practical tools and guidance and public policy analysis. We have never been so busy! Please get in touch to discuss any areas where you need support, or with any questions or feedback.

Recent Ergon publications, podcasts and blogs

Supporting private equity funds on labour due diligence
For the past year we’ve been working with several private equity managers in emerging markets to develop guidance on labour risk due diligence. This has been as part of the ‘Moving the Market’ programme, funded by Humanity United, Freedom Fund and the UBS Optimus Foundation. You can read our blog summarising the project as well as the full guidance document. This is based on the typical PE investment cycle and explores how labour risk identification and management can be integrated at each stage. Ergon’s Macduy Ngo, who co-ordinated the project, has also produced a podcast, with contributions from two PE funds operating in sub-Saharan Africa who explain the challenges they face and their strategies for identifying and managing labour risks.

Translating living wage commitments into practical strategies
Many companies now have commitments to paying living wages in their supply chains. The question is how they can translate these goals into a clear strategy and implementation plans. This report, for the United Nations Global Compact, aims to help companies take those concrete steps towards improving wages across their supply chains. It draws on inputs provided by international organisations, workers’ representatives, civil society and multi-stakeholder initiatives. It also profiles the latest efforts from leading international brands and retailers, many of whom are part of the UNGC’s Decent Work in Global Supply Chains Action Platform. You can download the report here. You can also read Alastair Usher’s blog on living wage challenges here.

Inclusive skills for enterprise development in agribusiness
This report for the European Training Foundation (ETF) looks at the challenges, opportunities, and current policy and private sector experiences around innovation and inclusive skills development for sustainable agribusiness. Focusing on five countries (Georgia, Morocco, Serbia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan), it examines the practices and experiences of a range of agribusiness companies, from (M)SMEs to international retailer brands. The report also examines some of the public policy implications of the industry trends and specific private sector experiences. There is also a webinar about the project here. The project was led by Alastair Usher.

Promoting gender diversity in Jordan – case study
Companies can play a decisive role in supporting women to succeed in traditionally male-dominated occupations and sectors, including the world of tech. We worked on this new case study with IFC – International Finance Corporation – and World Bank to showcase how Estarta Solutions, a leading engineering and ICT company in Jordan, has achieved greater gender diversity in its operations, including through targeted outreach and recruitment programmes for female engineering and ICT graduates. The research was led by Kate Jelly. Download the report here.


Selected current projects

Good labour rights practices – on-line learning
We have collaborated with IPIECA and Building Responsibly to develop an extensive training on labour rights in the oil, gas and energy industry. The result is an interactive e-learning solution, which will support on site practitioners in learning the foundations of good labour rights practices, helping them identify red flags, providing them with practical steps on how to address industry-specific risk and solidifying understanding of opportunities derived from best practice. The training spans from an introduction to labour rights, through modules on core labour rights and beyond, including modules on important topics such as understanding how labour rights and procurement are intertwined and on fair recruitment. The training will be launched in the coming weeks. Contact Estefania Murray for more details.

Assessing human rights impacts – food and agriculture
We are just completing several human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) in food and agricultural commodity supply chains including bananas, avocados, Brazil nuts and coffee from various sourcing countries. These have been commissioned by European supermarkets and the results will be published in the next few months. They follow our standard methodology including supply chain analysis, stakeholder engagement, field visits (where possible), impact ranking and mitigation recommendations. We also have three other HRIAs ongoing, covering citrus fruit, fish & seafood and tea. This work is being led by Brett Dodge and Catherine Morgans.

Integrating human rights issues into corporate practices
Alongside human rights assessments of supply chains, many businesses are now using a human rights lens to review their core functions. We have been working with several major international corporations to help them incorporate human rights considerations into business functions such as procurement, research & development, recruitment and human resource management. Typically these have involved deep engagement with relevant global teams, internal surveys, workshops and development of collaborative recommendations. We have ongoing assignments with clients in the pharmaceutical, hygiene, finance and fast food sectors. More information from Steve Gibbons.

‘Base of the pyramid’ – moving people out of poverty
Ergon has been commissioned by IFC to lead a research project to explore the role of the private sector and investors in improving the quality of work and livelihood opportunities for low-income workers at the base of the economic pyramid (BOP), ultimately helping them transition out of poverty. Building on IFC’s work on inclusive business the research will focus on the practices of market-leading private enterprises that demonstrably contribute to better jobs and livelihoods for low-income workers in ways that also create value and generate concrete business benefits for firms. The findings of the research will be published by the IFC in a global report later in 2022. Contact Sam Kelly for more information.

Decent Work Country Programme – The Bahamas
Earlier this year, we supported the ILO and its tripartite partners in the development of a new Decent Work Country Programme for The Bahamas. This involved detailed analysis of the social and economic background, support for social partner dialogue and development of national policy recommendations. Sam Kelly and Kirsten Newitt led this work.