Encourage companies to disclose workforce risk

Rathbone Greenbank sets out a number of decent work initiatives to support

Decent work is an important contributor to equality of opportunity and is an essential check to ensure no one is left behind as we transition to a low carbon economy.

At its core, decent work means having an appropriate power balance between employer and employee. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines decent work as “productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equality, security and human dignity.” In other words, employment opportunities where the employee is not being exploited or manipulated for their labour, and instead receives a fair income and safe working conditions, as well as being treated with dignity and equality. 

The ILO sets out four key elements of decent work: job creation, including opportunity for development; rights at work, such as a minimum wage; social protection; and social dialogue. 

In 2015 these elements were integrated into the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development under goal 8, which aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” The aim of the Sustainable Development Goals is to end global poverty and improve health and education, whilst reducing inequality and tackling climate change. Decent work for all has a crucial role to play in this.

Who to support

If we are to achieve a just transition to net zero, alongside decarbonisation efforts, we must aim for long-term social inclusion and resilience, for example through education, reskilling and retraining for workers. This is especially vital in the areas that are most reliant on greenhouse gas intensive industries, ensuring that decarbonising the economy does not come at a human cost.

Greenbank is supporting the right to decent work through a number of partnerships, including the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI) which aims to improve public reporting and transparency from companies on workforce related issues, helping investors identify leaders and engage with companies to improve outcomes for workers.

See also: – Number of companies disclosing workplace practices jumps 

Another focus area for is in the field of living wages and secure working conditions. In addition to encouraging companies to become accredited Living Wage employers, we support the Living Wage Foundation and ShareAction’s Good Work coalition to encourage companies to join the Living Hours accreditation scheme. This enables employers to commit to providing their workers with added security and stability of working hours and shift patterns.

Around the world workers’ rights continue to be transgressed at staggering levels, making the abuse of decent working standards not just a humanitarian crisis, but also an investor one. Good Jobs First maintains a Violation Tracker of infringements on decent working standards. Since 2000, the Violation Tracker has recorded over 116,000 employment related offences with a total payout of over $31bn in the US alone.

These include issues around wages and hours, labour rights violations and restrictions on freedom of representation. And these are only the violations that make it to formal proceedings; many more go unreported.

Good Jobs First, in cooperation with the Transparency Task Force, is rolling out a Violation Tracker in the UK. This has created a free directory with access to information on more than 63,000 cases brought by over 40 regulatory bodies. 

The power that such a tracker brings shines a light on the indiscretions of companies and makes it easier to detect behaviour patterns. This helps regulators in prosecuting and legislating against infringements. And it is also helpful to us as investors as it allows us to better scrutinise potential investments and see where we can undertake more targeted engagement work.

Decent working conditions and quality employment empower people – particularly women, and vulnerable demographic groups – as well as helping to reduce poverty and inequalities worldwide.

For investors that are committed to promoting decent working standards, the most important step is to engage with the companies in which you invest. By encouraging them to disclose how they identify and manage workforce risks, how they are attracting and retaining their talent, and how they ensure their workers are safe and fairly remunerated, investors promote and safeguard high standards. 


Natasha Turner

Natasha is global editor at ESG Clarity, part of Mark Allen Financial, and has been a financial journalist for seven years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of the...