Blogs

25March

How Companies Take Responsibility in Respecting Human Rights

A brief introduction to codes of conduct, supplier codes and other ethical documents

Have you ever bought shoes from Adidas? If so, have you ever wondered where these shoes came from and who made them?

Products made by a company like Adidas have traveled a long way. People and companies  all around the world have put in effort gathering materials, putting them all together, controlling logistics and so on in order to accomplish the final product. Over the past 30 years, companies  started to account for the human rights of the workers in their global supply chains. Stockholders and societal debates have put moral pressure on companies to document their ethical values and principles. This has led to the introduction of so-called ‘codes of conduct’ for employees and ‘supplier codes’ for suppliers. Sometimes  companies add other ‘ethical documents’ like due diligence reports.

To clarify, here’s a concise definition of each of the documents to be found on the websites of companies. 

22September

Meet The Team

Introducing the team working on the Database of Business Ethics

It has taken several years to build the database you can now find on the website of The Database of Business Ethics. And still, this database is an ongoing project: we continue to work on collecting codes from all over the world and from all kinds of enterprises. Currently, Dr. Erkens, Kate Verhoeff and Emma Snel are in charge of managing, updating and expanding this database. Thanks to a grant from the KNAW, blog posts about the database will be written every week. In these posts, aspects of the research and the data collection will be explained. 

Curious about Dr. Erkens, Kate Verhoeff and Emma Snel? Let’s introduce them!

29September

‘Send help’ in clothing labels: is Shein to blame?

A quick look into the supplier code of conduct of Shein

Now that autumn is there, a new sweater seems to be needed in every wardrobe. A simple Google search will lead you to thousands of websites, but Shein seems to be popping up very often. Shein is an online fashion company founded in 2012 and according to Euromonitor, one of the internet's largest fashion stores. In competing with other companies, it is well known for its social media strategies and cheap prices. But how fair are these cheap prices?

06October

The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

An explanation of the basis of our database

The Database of Business Ethics consists of hundreds of codes, in which companies state how they want to enforce rules to which labour practices at work can be evaluated. Each code is different, for each company has a different work environment. However, they more or less live up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, consisting of eight ILO-conventions on the core labour standards. In this blog post, a brief overview of the origin of these core labour standards is presented.

13October

We Must Reduce Child Labour

Child labour: definition and numbers

For the first time in twenty years, the number of children as victims of child labour raises. The ILO estimates that 160 million children are working in unethical conditions, and many more are at risk, especially due to the impact of COVID-19.

What is considered child labour? Let’s have a closer look at the definition.

22October

How Indian Multinational Wipro Lives up to Their (Supplier) Code of Conduct

By Cézanne de Smet

As a Global Law Professor at KU Leuven Yvonne Erkens has taught the class Business and human rights from a labour law perspective. As part of their final assignment, the students participating in that course have written a blog about how companies in the Database of Business Ethics - chosen randomly - aim to comply with fundamental labour rights according to their (supplier) codes of conduct. In the upcoming weeks, the three best blogs will be published on our site. The first blog can be found below. 

27October

Forced Labour in the 21st Century: The Uyghur Case of Modern Slavery

Forced labour: definition and numbers

“One out of five clothes made out of cotton is tainted by forced labour from the Uyghur Region,” states End Uyghur Forced Labour. Thousands of people are corralled into forced labour, causing outrage and calls for international support against this. Beijing continues to deny the occurrence of forced labour. Chinese sources point out “the willingness to work and the abilities of the poor are ‘insufficient’, and together with their inner motivation must be ‘stimulated’.” This emphasises the probability of forced labour in this region. As this shows the urgency of reducing forced labour among these people, it also becomes important to know how forced labour is defined. Let’s have a closer look at forced labour as an International Labour Standard.

03November

Does Alaska Air Group Go the Extra Mile? A Short Flight Across the Company’s CSR Policy

By Sanne Quarles van Ufford

As a Global Law Professor at KU Leuven Yvonne Erkens has taught the class Business and human rights from a labour law perspective. As part of their final assignment, the students participating in that course have written a blog about how companies in the Database of Business Ethics - chosen randomly - aim to comply with fundamental labour rights according to their (supplier) codes of conduct. In the upcoming weeks, the three best blogs will be published on our site. The second blog can be found below.

10November

A Worrying Trend: Increased Violations of the Right to Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining: definition and numbers

In a worrying trend, the Global Rights Index of the International Trade Union Center (ITUC) shows that the percentage of countries in violation of the right to collective bargaining has increased from 63% in 2014 to 79% in 2022. Serious restrictions regarding collective bargaining were recorded in 117 countries. The ITUC analysed nine-year data trends to report on the status regarding workers’ rights and found restrictions in all regions of the world, in both public and private sectors. 

What does the right to collective bargaining entail? 

17November

How 'Human' Are the Practices of American Oil Company Chevron That Names Itself the 'Human Energy Company’?

By Artuur Stas

As a Global Law Professor at KU Leuven Yvonne Erkens has taught the class Business and human rights from a labour law perspective. As part of their final assignment, the students participating in that course have written a blog about how companies in the Database of Business Ethics - chosen randomly - aim to comply with fundamental labour rights according to their (supplier) codes of conduct. The three best blogs are now published on our site. The third blog can be found below.

20November

The Kick-Off of the Most Controversial World Cup in History

An explanation of the World Cup controversies

As of today, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has started. An event that has brought strong criticism, firstly because of allegations of bribery and corruption in the selection process, additionally because of the treatment of foreign workers involved in preparation for the World Cup. In the series Qatar: beyond the football” of The Guardian, you can dig into twelve years of reporting on the issues around the Qatar World Cup. According to Amnesty International, on sites both connected and unconnected to the World Cup, migrant workers (which make up more than 90% of Qatar’s population) have encountered, among other things, “unbearable and dangerous working and living conditions, with thousands of workers’ deaths remaining unexplained”. So, didn’t anyone try to stop this?

26November

The Widespread Problem of Discrimination

Discrimination: definition and numbers

According to the ILO, discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably than others because of characteristics that are not related to the person’s competencies or the inherent requirements of the job. All workers and job seekers have the right to be treated equally, regardless of any attributes other than their ability to do the job. Discrimination may occur before hiring, on the job or upon leaving. Freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right. It is essential for workers to be able to choose their employment freely, to develop their potential to the full and to be rewarded based on merit. 

The ILO has two conventions considering discrimination. The Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) and the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100). Convention 111 identifies as bases of discrimination race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin. Other ILO instruments list additional grounds: HIV/AIDS, age, disability, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, and trade union membership or activities. Convention 100 promotes the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. This refers to remuneration (ordinary, basic or minimum wage or salary by the employer to the worker and arising out of the worker’s employment) established without discrimination based on gender.

Around the world, finding a job is much tougher for women than it is for men. The current global labour force participation rate (being employed or actively looking for employment) for women is just under 47%, for men it is 72%. On top of that, when women are employed, they tend to work in low-quality jobs in vulnerable conditions, and there is little improvement forecast in the near future. 

A recent example of discrimination of women in the world of work is the situation in Afghanistan where, due to the Taliban takeover on August 15th 2021, women can’t work outside of their homes, are robbed of their right to political participation and can can only travel for 78 kilometres without a male chaperone. Inequality between men and women is a widespread problem. For data behind trends and more information about barriers holding women back from decent work, the ILO made an InfoStory to make it all more comprehensible.

We can conclude from this that discrimination is still a widespread problem which calls for action. Therefore, the ILO has several guides to support equality. For instance, you can read the easy-to-read version of "An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities" report, the learning guide for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) persons in the world of work, or the guide for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work in fragile, conflict and disaster settings. Last but not least, our database is a great resource to check if companies support equality in their (supplier) code of conduct.

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