MANILA — The International Labor Organization (ILO) on November 20 launched a Euro €9-million new project in the Philippines on Responsible Supply Chains in Asia (RSCA).

ILO has partnered with the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for the three-year project, which the EU is funding, under the Partnership Instrument, and jointly implemented with the OECD.

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In the picture from left, seated, are EU delegation in Manila head of Trade Section Maurizio Celini, Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III, and ILO Philippines Director Khalid Hassan as they are joined by representatives from the government, workers and employers organizations in support of responsible supply chains. (ILO)

In an email sent to SDN — Scitech and Digital News, ILO said the new project will cover six countries in Asia — China, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam,

This is the first time that the EU, the ILO and the OECD join forces to promote socially responsible practices and sustainable global supply chains on a large scale. It will focus on increasing awareness and strengthening the capacity of businesses and the government on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and responsible business conduct (RBC).

The project will contribute to advancing sustainable and inclusive growth by encouraging businesses to adopt policies and practices on human and labor rights and environmental protection standards in line with decent work and international labor standards. These include the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises (MNE) and Social Policy, the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights and the OECD MNE Guidelines.

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Above is the panel on patterns and challenges of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the Philippines and its transformation as a tool in promoting socially responsible business practices at the project launch and stakeholders engagement of the new ILO-EU-OECD project on Responsible Supply Chains in Asia (RSCA). (ILO)

Positive social and labor impacts

Principles in the MNE declaration provide guidelines for enhancing the positive social and labor effects of the operation and governance of multinational enterprises towards achieving decent work for all.

“International trade and investment will drive employment but compliance with labor standards, human rights and environmental guidelines is vital. Along the supply chain, businesses may buy raw goods and materials without knowing that those were made under unfair and unsafe working conditions,” said Khalid Hassan, director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

The EU is the fourth largest trading partner of the Philippines and new export markets for agricultural products are being developed on European countries. The value of Philippines agri-food exports accounts approximately 14% of the total exports to the EU and contributes to the livelihood of several millions of Filipinos. Increased corporate responsibility in the agriculture sector could have a major impact on the life and well-being of many Filipino workers and entire rural communities.

Challenges remain in addressing working conditions, ensuring fair wages and benefits, extending social protection, promoting occupational safety and health, respecting freedom of association and collective bargaining, and guaranteeing security of tenure. There are also cases of forced labor and child labor in agriculture. Of the 2.1 million Filipino children engaged in child labor, more than half or 58% are found in agriculture.

Sector-focused interventions will be introduced under the project, wherein successful approaches to CSR/RBC will be collected and shared among key stakeholders in Europe and in Asia, including through policy advocacy and training activities.

This new regional project is part of the EU’s long-standing commitment to promote human rights, decent work and sustainable development in the Philippines.

EU Ambassador Franz Jessen noted that as part of the values-based trade and investment policy of the European Union, there is a need to respond to consumers’ concerns by reinforcing corporate social responsibility initiatives and due diligence across the production chain with a focus on the respect of human rights and the social – including labor rights – and environmental aspects of value chains.

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DOLE Assistant Secretary Alex V. Avila engages in a dialogue for responsible business practices at the project launch and stakeholders engagement of the new ILO-EU-OECD project on Responsible Supply Chains in Asia (RSCA). (ILO)

Moreover, there is a need to ensure responsible management of supply chains and the EU has taken steps with specific partners and on specific issues.  This project being implemented with the ILO and OECD will help businesses understand their responsibilities and will help create policy environments that promote responsible conduct and dialogue, he added.

At the onset, the project will conduct a research in the Philippines focusing on agriculture food commodity sector to generate reliable and comprehensive knowledge base as inputs for evidence-based dialogues and joint actions.  Philippine exports to the EU reached a total value of €7.6 billion in 2017, €2 billion of which are exports under GSP+ scheme and with nearly half of these GSP exports comprising agri-food products worth €930 million.

The launch of the new project held on 20 November 2018 in Manila featured a panel discussion on trends, experiences and challenges on corporate social responsibility and responsible business conduct. Panelists from the business sector and leading actors gave their insights and recommendations towards an enabling environment for CSR in the Philippines. (via ILO)