ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

271st Session
Geneva, March 1998

Committee on Employment and Social Policy



Progress report on preparations for the
Second ILO Enterprise Forum

Activities of the tripartite working group

1.  Since November 1997 the tripartite working group, which includes representatives of the IOE, ICFTU, ACT/EMP, ACTRAV and ENTREPRISE, has met a total of four times to discuss the theme, structure and timing of the Second ILO Enterprise Forum. The meetings have taken place in a constructive and positive atmosphere and agreement has been reached on a general thematic framework for the Forum and on its timing, which has been fixed immediately prior to the Governing Body session in November 1999. This note will briefly summarize some of the main conclusions reached to date.

Thematic framework

Enterprise competitiveness, corporate citizenship
and the employment challenge in the twenty-first century

2.  The above general theme of the Enterprise Forum will be approached from four key perspectives:

1.  The changing market-place

This panel will both reflect on present day realities as well as seek to map out future scenarios with regard to the competitive challenges enterprises will be facing in the coming decades. This will include analysis of key changes in the business environment, such as regionalization and globalization, universal moves towards market-based economic systems, the increasing importance of communications and technology, and mobility of capital. Against this background, the increasingly complex challenge of fulfilling an enterprise's primary goal of operating at a profit and creating value for a widening range of stakeholders will be considered from the perspective of management, customers, investors, employees, suppliers, the community and others. Themes for discussion will include:

Discussion will be based on inputs from a number of perspectives, including a business strategist and a social development analyst.

2.  Human resource-based competitive strategies

What strategies do successful enterprises employ to effectively compete in the increasingly complex market-place? Emphasis will be on how successful enterprises mobilize the intelligence, skill and commitment of employees through progressive human resource management and employee involvement approaches. How can the participation of the workforce be secured when increasing global competition and the accelerating pace of technological change combine to savagely undermine job security? Discussion will address the changing organizational structures and working relationships, and also identify the challenges posed to managers, workers, employers and trade unions, including the role of technological change which often drives change. Specific themes for discussion will include:

3.  Corporate citizenship and social initiatives

Why and how do an increasing number of enterprises commit to various forms of corporate citizenship and social initiatives? Discussion will focus on questions such as what drives companies to be socially responsive, how they build their "social competence", and how this is translated into concrete management systems and into wider corporate strategies to build competitive advantage. As part of this discussion, experience of applying ethical enterprise values such as voluntary codes of conduct and social labelling will be reviewed. Government-business partnerships to combat social exclusion and other social issues will be explored as examples of innovative business roles. Specific themes for discussion will include:

4.  Tapping the employment potential of small business

Discussion on this theme will explore the growing role of small business in creating employment, and will include reference to the probable ILO Recommendation on this subject. The question of what can be done by larger enterprises and the social partners to fully mobilize the potential of the small-scale sector to generate employment will be explored, with particular focus on the key role of women entrepreneurs and the special issues related to youth entrepreneurship. The challenge of ensuring adequate quality of jobs in small enterprises will be addressed, together with the subject of large enterprise restructuring and small business spin-offs. Specific themes for discussion will include:

Timing and structure

3.  The Second ILO Enterprise Forum is planned to take place on 5 and 6 November 1999, immediately preceding the Governing Body. It is foreseen that each of the major themes will be the subject of brief presentations by a limited number of high-level panellists, followed by general discussion under the guidance of an experienced chairperson. To allow adequate time for discussion, some themes will be treated in plenary sitting, while others will be covered in smaller parallel meetings. The detailed structure of the Forum and identity of the keynote speakers and resource panellists will be the subject of further work by the tripartite working group.

Geneva, 10 February 1998.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.