Workshop on Enabling Environment for Sustainable Enterprises

A workshop is to be organized to present and validate a draft report on an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises in Barbados

News | 16 January 2012


Recognizing that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between decent work, sustainable development and the promotion of sustainable enterprises, the November 2005 session of the Governing Body of the International Labour Office, chose for inclusion in the 2007 International Labour Conference an agenda item on the promotion of sustainable enterprises. In placing this item on the Conference agenda, the Governing Body acknowledged that decent work could only be created and perpetuated for employers, workers and society
more generally if enterprises operated on a sustainable economic, social and environmental basis.

It should also be recalled that previous sessions of the International Labour Conference had discussed related topics: like the discussions in 1997 and 1998 that had resulted in the Job Creation in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Recommendation, 1998 (No. 189); the discussions in 2001and 2002, which had resulted in the Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (No. 193) and the 2002 general discussion on the informal economy that had addressed policies for upgrading informal economy units to become part of the mainstream economy and thereby to make a more useful contribution to socioeconomic development. There is also the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration) that had guided the work of the International Labour Office for 30 years and has recently been updated.

In order to ensure an enabling environment which encourages investment, entrepreneurship, workers’ rights and the creation, growth and maintenance of sustainable enterprises, new forms of cooperation between government, business, labour and society are required. Tripartism, including social dialogue and collective bargaining, is that form of necessary cooperation. Sustainable development therefore balances the needs and interests of the enterprise with the aspiration of society for a path of development that:
  • respects the values and principles of decent work, human dignity and environmental sustainability
  • ensures that the quality of present and future life and employment is maximized, whilst safeguarding the sustainability of the planet.
The conclusions of the discussion on the promotion of sustainable enterprises in 2007 provide detailed guidance on what constitutes a conducive environment for sustainable enterprises, noting that such an environment combines the legitimate quest for profit with the need for development which respects human dignity, environmental sustainability and decent work. It underscores the principle that sustainable enterprises need sustainable societies and that business tends to thrive where societies thrive and vice versa.

The conclusions identify and elaborate on 17 pillars of such a conducive environment; outline six enterprise-level characteristics of a sustainable enterprise; and provide guidance to governments, the social partners and the ILO on their roles in promoting sustainable enterprises.

Additionally, it is recognised that infrastructural development needs to be focused on:
  • supporting the transition of informal economy operators to the formal economy and ensuring that laws and regulations cover all enterprises and workers.
  • strengthening of the institutions and governance systems which nurture enterprises.
  • assuring that human, financial and natural resources are combined equitably and efficiently in order to achieve innovation and enhanced productivity.
  • an approach which is not one-size-fits-all, but one whereby policies are implemented in recognition of the diversity of country situations in line with the level of development, resources and institutional capacity. This must be done without undermining the importance of labour and environmental standards.

A project proposal on the enabling environment in Barbados

CARICOM Secretariat estimates indicate that between 1990 and 2000 micro and small enterprises accounted for approximately 45 percent of jobs created in the Caribbean. These enterprises are thought therefore to be the most realistic vehicle for meeting the employment and poverty challenges in many countries.

However, the proliferation of large enterprises in the region especially multinational enterprises (MNEs), and their contribution to economic development, must also be acknowledged. Overall, it is recognized that whether
large or small, if enterprises are not sustainable, it could mean disaster for the continued development of the region.

These objectives are laudable but in order for them to become a reality, there needs to be a move away from anecdotal evidence regarding the policies which impact development. The dearth of empirical data available can affect sustainable development where policy decisions, regulatory and supporting frameworks may not promote the potential of these enterprises, but, may in fact hinder them. In order for policies to promote sustainable enterprises, there must be improved knowledge on their functioning and the constraints they

Towards the end of September 2011, the ILO conducted a knowledge sharing  and capacity building workshop in Barbados. The two-day workshop brought  together 20 participants, including high-level representatives of the three constituents of the Social Partnership. The opening ceremony was graced by the presence of Mr Cedric Murell, President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Association of Barbados (CTUSAB) and Mr Tony Walcott, Executive Director of Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC). The Ministry of Labour and Social Security was represented at the opening session by Mr Wayne Sobers. Anecdotal evidence presented at the workshop suggested that some of the hindrances to sustainability in Barbados include:

  • Access to funding - This project aims to gain empirical data on the sustainability of enterprises in Barbados. In some other territories in the region it is known that more than half of the small entrepreneurs started their businesses using their own funds. For example, two national surveys conducted in 1996 in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago indicated that nearly three quarters of medium and small enterprises (MSEs) never applied for a loan from a financial institution. The reasons attributed are (a) did not know how to proceed, (b) afraid of refusal, (c) could not afford to lose the collateral which would have to be offered, (d) did not have confidence in the financial institutions and (e) interest rates were too high.
  • Technical assistance and training - Although there are many institutions involved in skills training, there is limited entrepreneurial training offered. MSEs lack on-going technical assistance and "hands-on" training to upgrade their products, increase productivity and improve packaging.
  • Infrastructural - The non-availability of factory/commercial space to suit the needs of the sector coupled with high cost of utilities and rent are considered major impediments to the growth of the sector.
Additional factors such as the lack of timely market information, difficulties in accessing new technologies, high competition, and role of education, training and life-long learning were also mentioned. The discussions also revealed that there were glaring deficiencies of information with respect to the 17 conditions for an enabling environment. It was proposed that further investigation is needed. This is the void to be filled by the proposed project.

This project proposal will therefore assist in understanding:
  • What needs to be addressed to obtain an enabling environment;
  • Challenges and opportunities for sustainable enterprises;
  • Which future reforms are needed;
  • What priorities are to be set.

Expected outcome

A workshop is to be organized to present and validate a draft report on an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises in Barbados. The draft paper includes secondary data, the results of a national survey conducted in
November 2011 by the Barbadian social partners led by BWU, as well as supplementary information collected by ILO and the Barbadian social partners.

The workshop will bring together 30 representatives of ILO constituents in Barbados and will include those who attended the workshop which took place in September 2011. The workshop will also be attended by ILO officials from Headquarters and from the Decent Work Team in Port of Spain.

The expected outcome of the proposed project is to empower ILO’s social partners in Barbados by supporting their capacity to undertake research, with a special focus on the enabling environment for sustainable enterprises. Ultimately this will yield an evidence base and leverage the profile of the social partners to form common positions and to enter into policy dialogue to achieve policy change.

Objectives of the Workshop

This activity aims to:
  • Secure consolidated information on an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises.
  • Secure an evidence base and leverage the profile of the social partners toform common positions and to enter into policy dialogue to achieve policy change.
  • Secure a baseline by which comparisons can be made with other countries.