It’s about Corporate Sustainability and Human Rights. Are they compatible at all? Does the former comprise the latter? Well, it should.
An unspectacular movement
There is a movement among the global entrepreneurship which is pursuing a definite aim: implementing humanity – in terms of enforcing human rights – in business and economy, in production and trade, in distribution and prices, in labour conditions and wages. Furthermore there is a cooperation between supra-governmental organisations such as the United Nations or the European Union, on the one hand and multinational corporations, transnational companies or sole proprietorships on the other hand. They all face the
Corporations all over the world are facing the claim for a decent living – of people who live in misery and poverty although having a steady job. However, these workers are not directly on the payroll of the ultimately buying companies. Instead, their jobs are frequently being outsourced to other subcontractors, who, in turn, employ other subcontractors and so on. In the end the workers earn less than the subsistence minimum.
There are other people who lost their livelihood by the impact of multinational and transnational enterprises who are building new production facilities in regions and on places, which once had been sound, diverse, full of life and hope for a better future for the population living in those areas, only to be torn up, destroyed and decimated beyond repair.
To show what’s it all about let’s have a look on
Two typical cases
The first case is that of female workers in China. Ingeborg Wick of the German SÜDWIND-Institut puts it in a nutshell:
“Discounters’ bargains are the result of the systematic violation of labour law and of women’s rights by global subcontractors.”
Her study about the situation of Chinese worker women shows that their labour produces not only personal computers, bicycles, guitars, hand mixers and textiles for ALDI, the German super-discounter, but in addition, they “produce” 20% of the company’s annual turnover of an estimated 35 billion Euros (in the year 2008). The labour and living conditions of these women, however, baffle description:
- 91 hours average weekly working time due to inadequate minimum wages;
- no written contracts;
- no maternal protection at all;
- the imposition of fines in cases of absenteeism;
- no contributions to social insurances,
- and not a single case of holiday pay.
This is a supply chain problem of a special kind.
The other case is about ThyssenKrupp Steel, a TNC (Transnational Corporation) in Brazil. European TNCs have positioned themselves in strategic areas of the Latin American economy, resulting in increased impoverishment, the pillaging of natural resources, dismantling of public services, conflict, criminalisation of social protest and devastation of the environment.
The Germany based TKS started constructing a huge steel factory in the Bay of Sepetiba, close to Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Environmental issues are foreseeable. They could be as extensive as those of Shell in Nigeria. But ThyssenKrupp pleads existing Brazilian regulatory laws and is outright denying negative impacts on the environment – like the foretold 76% rise of carbon emissions for Rio de Janeiro when the factory will be running continuously (watch the “Baía Sepetiba”-video >>)
Further, TKS dissents the reports of Brazilian environmental NGOs about thousands of fishermen who already lost their livelihoods due to fish-poisoning by heavy metals as TKS has widened and deepened an already existing canal for future purposes. Even worse, they declared the re-forestation of an unlegally clear-cut huge area to be a social initiative.
This is the so called TNCs problem. Read more about them and their violations on the Transnational Institute‘s website.
So, who in the end is responsible for these people? Who would be responsible for their survival, their well being and their living conditions, which are now unfit for human existence? Up to now it were the NGOs being active on the field of humanitarian aid, active regarding the plight of these workers. Nowadays there seems to be a shift towards a more general joint-venture of global organisations, of corporate projects and nongovernmental activists in order to change the people’s situation for the better. But first and foremost there is a problem to be solved:
Entrepreneurs are facing the dilemma, how to mitigate the risk of violating both human rights and the environmental balance, and how to operate effectively and profitably and to deliver its core business objectives. Global Compact of the UN is hosting a “Dilemma”-forum you should visit. There you can get your teeths into this topic.
The European Union is yielding to the pressure of global environmentalists and local social activists – and probably to their own remorse. For this they started an cisatlantic initiative to formulate a framework of regulations in order to implement corporate sustainability in a globalized world of production, trade and consumption. The European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) is one of their advisors. Seems to be a long road these people got to walk…
These people in China and in Brazil need your support to regain their human dignity. Go for the aid projects and take action whenever possible! Thank you!