ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

274th Session
Geneva, March 1999

Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the
Liberalization of International Trade



Further examination of questions concerning
private initiatives, including codes of conduct


I. Background

II. Review of further developments

III. Research activities

IV. Accompanying and support services

V. Future directions: A proactive position of engagement

VI. Concluding remarks


I. Background

1. At its meeting during the 273rd Session (November 1998) of the Governing Body, the Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the Liberalization of International Trade requested the Office to prepare a short and focused document for its present session, without prejudice to any decisions that might ultimately be taken. The Working Party asked the Office to elaborate on the questions raised in the Office paper of November(1)  about the various approaches which the Office might adopt, taking into account the views expressed in the prior discussion. In particular, the Office was asked to address research activities which seek to explore the issues and lacunae identified in the previous document,(2)  and possible positions and follow-up action by the Organization beyond research. As options for consideration, the previous document raised the possibility, upon request, of providing accompanying and support services to enterprises in the field of private-sector initiatives, and of considering, in the future, the development of an ILO text of recommended benchmarks for voluntary initiatives and a possible framework for verifying performance, based on such benchmarks.(3)  The Working Party further requested an indication of the possible resource implications and arrangements for coordination of any possible activities.

2. In the Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01 under review at the present session of the Governing Body, the Director-General refers to "work supporting private-sector initiatives such as corporate codes of conduct" among "key elements of the 2000-01 programme of work of the ILO . . . still awaiting further discussion in the decision-making organs".(4)  The present document reviews relevant developments since the Governing Body's last session, reports on existing Office research, and describes some areas for new research. The document further presents illustrations of how private-sector initiatives, such as codes of conduct, might be integrated into ILO work in the light of the fundamental purposes of the Organization as reflected in the Constitution, including the Declaration of Philadelphia,(5)  and the strategic objectives set forth in the Programme and Budget proposals under review.(6)  A discussion of these implications for the Office's work in the field of private initiatives might provide a useful basis for the further elaboration and coordination of proposals for such activities in the Programme and Budget for 2000-01 and/or future general discussions as may appear appropriate.

II. Review of further developments

3. Since the 273rd Session of the Governing Body, headquarters and field offices have continued to receive requests for information, assistance and participation in meetings and training sessions related to private sector initiatives, and in particular codes of conduct in transnational operations. Requests have come primarily from multinational enterprises, regional and sectoral enterprise associations, workers' and employers' organizations, and coalitions promoting hybrid codes.(7)  In addition, the United Nations and European agencies have inquired about the ILO's position on such matters. In its responses, the Office has sought to avoid action that might prejudge the questions of policy now under examination.

4. At the request of the hosts, the Office participated as an observer in the European Union/United States Symposium on Codes of Conduct, which was attended by some 150 officials, including representatives of United States and European business, employers' and workers' organizations, ministries of labour, NGOs and auditing firms. Widespread agreement was expressed by business and workers' representatives, with significant support from NGOs and governments, that the ILO should serve as the primary forum for addressing the labour issues implicated by voluntary codes. Many supported the view that any such code developed should reflect the aims underlying the fundamental principles and rights enshrined in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, while some business representatives insisted that the choice should be left to the discretion of each company.

5. Since the last session of the Governing Body, the ILO's Tripartite Meeting on Voluntary Initiatives affecting Training and Education on Safety, Health and Environment in the Chemical Industries was held in Geneva in February. The conclusions adopted by that meeting, to be reviewed by the Governing Body,(8)  seek to promote best practices in health, safety and the environment (HSE) by encouraging voluntary initiatives as a complement to legislation, where appropriate.(9) 

6. In January 1999, the European Parliament adopted a resolution which recommends a model code of conduct for European businesses operating in developing countries. In recognizing the need for a minimum threshold applicable to transnational dealings, the resolution supports a model code that would include the ILO core Conventions and the Tripartite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.(10) 

7. In further developments, various new studies covering the labour aspects of transnational codes of conduct have been published by public and private institutions.(11) 

8. Finally, at the World Economic Forum in January 1999, the United Nations Secretary-General noted that "the spread of markets far outpaces the ability of societies and their political systems to adjust to them, let alone to guide the course they take".(12)  He called on multinational investors, employers and producers to "uphold human rights and decent labour and environmental standards directly, by your own conduct of your own business" by promoting universal values in their dealings. In explicit references to the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its content, he urged the world's economic leaders "[not to] wait for every country to introduce laws protecting freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. You can at least make sure your own employees, and those of your subcontractors, enjoy those rights ... [including freedom from child and forced labour and discrimination on grounds of race, creed, gender or ethnic origin]".(13)  The Secretary-General declared that "... the ILO stand[s] ready to assist you, if you need help, in incorporating these agreed values and principles into your mission statements and corporate practices".

III. Research activities

9. At its last meeting, the Working Party requested the Office to examine the impact of codes and other private initiatives on the achievement of the Organization's objectives, including improved conditions of labour, full employment, and enterprise growth and competitiveness, particularly in developing countries and among small and medium-sized enterprises. Table 1 in the Appendix describes existing research projects in this area, and table 2 presents potential new research concerning voluntary initiatives, as made so far by the technical departments.(14) 

10. One of the lessons that has emerged from efforts to incorporate the Working Party's suggestions into concrete research activities is the methodological difficulty of assessing the operation or effect of codes of conduct. Codes of conduct, like other private sector initiatives, do not operate in a vacuum. They are developed or negotiated in the general context of the management and operations of the enterprise, a context that develops dynamically in a relationship with enterprise stakeholders, other enterprises, outside actors including governments, and the market itself.(15)  On the one hand, it would appear relatively simple to document the approaches used to administer voluntary initiatives, or ways in which enterprises address the technical and managerial changes needed to respond to the demands of business partners' codes of conduct. On the other hand, pilot studies seeking to analyse the impact of codes on labour practices, employment, enterprise growth or competitiveness present more complex design and analysis, and involve consideration of diverse factors in the enterprise's internal and external environment.

11. A further question for discussion involves the substantive focuses of proposed research on private initiatives. Some research would focus on labour relations and/or conditions of work relevant to the realization of the aims of the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.(16)  Others would examine private sector initiatives in connection with strategic objectives (see footnote 6) such as employment and its enabling environment which includes enterprise growth; or social protection and its operational objectives, such as occupational health and safety or social security, which are reflected in labour standards. Still other projects would investigate efforts beyond the typical legal minimum, which might qualify as future best practices, such as workers' privacy or disability accommodation. Finally, some projects would seek to explore more broadly the field of private sector initiatives by addressing business activities in environmental, community or other social affairs.(17)  A discussion on these points might explore the degree of alignment between the various research focuses and the ILO's strategic and operational objectives, as well as its cross-cutting themes.(18) 

12. Yet another issue involves the coordination of research activities to ensure that each project provides a discrete contribution while the Office advances towards a consistent and effective understanding of the dimensions of private initiatives relevant to its objectives. Mechanisms for coordination might proceed informally between projects with some common coverage, such as those proposed on labour relations, enterprise growth and management systems (see table 2). In addition, a focal point for periodic dialogue and cross-fertilization of research methods and findings, such as an internal working group of all those conducting relevant work, may be advisable.

IV. Accompanying and support services

13. At the Governing Body's last session, the Working Party requested the Office to comment further on ways in which technical assistance could address the needs, especially of small and medium-sized enterprises and those in developing countries, in connection with private sector initiatives such as codes of conduct. This section presents examples of possible ways to proceed, but it must be emphasized that the actual examples presented to facilitate discussion are only illustrations of various attitudes that could be taken in accordance with policy guidance.

14. The previous document posed the question of whether the Office might offer advice, training and/or operational assistance in two general areas --

A framework in which any assistance in the context of private social initiatives (such as guides, manuals, training programmes, etc.) is provided only at the request of interested parties would help ensure, in keeping with the consensus reached in the Working Party in its previous discussion, that Office assistance involves only voluntary private initiatives.

15. The growing trade in services addressing the social responsibility of business reflects a vigorous response to market demand for advice and other assistance in the field of voluntary initiatives, and in particular codes of conduct.(20)  Various intergovernmental organizations have also sought to assist enterprises in addressing the environmental and labour dimensions of such initiatives.(21)  In keeping with its constitutional mandate, any response by the Organization would require at least a two-step process: (a) a request by interested parties, as noted above, and (b) a determination that such assistance would advance the ILO's purposes and objectives as stated in its Constitution and reflected in its standards(22)  and other means of implementation of its objectives.(23)  This two-step process would apply even when the enterprise may offer to cover the costs.

(a) A two-part framework of assistance to enterprises

16. A framework for technical assistance in the area of private voluntary initiatives such as codes of conduct could build naturally on existing operational programmes and models and the expertise gained through applied research, discussed above. This framework of assistance might be built in two complementary ways: (a) integrating enterprise needs relating to private initiatives into existing programmes; and (b) piloting new programmes specifically targeting the needs of constituents and enterprise in connection with private initiatives.

17. Integrating enterprise needs into existing programmes. The Organization could integrate enterprise needs relating to private sector initiatives, such as codes of conduct in supply chains, into existing operational programmes to the extent that such needs arise in the context of the broader programme. Such an approach could enhance programme effectiveness and provide a natural response to current developments, particularly in the context of ILO assistance to enterprises in developing countries in globalized chains of production or service, and to small and medium-sized enterprises facing brand image competition. This approach would also recognize, as discussed above, that codes and other such initiatives do not operate in a vacuum, but rather respond to, and influence, enterprise systems as a whole.

18. Existing Office programmes in which enterprise needs relating to private initiatives may be relevant include programmes concerning enterprise development, management, labour relations, and working conditions. Table 3 contains a list of Office programmes; while not exhaustive, it draws out particular examples in which the occasion may arise to address private sector initiatives in programme components according to the needs of the particular entities served. The programmes in table 3 guide the social partners and enterprise in the practical application, in the course of regular activities, of the relevant principles underlying ILO objectives and standards. The programmes cover a diversity of issues, including working conditions, occupational safety and health, seafarers and port workers, industry-based assistance in the elimination of child labour, and various programmes in enterprise development. Manuals and handbooks serve, in many cases, as the basis for training and other forms of technical assistance on issues highly relevant to some private enterprise initiatives.(24) 

19. The integration of needs relating to private initiatives into existing programmes might adopt several approaches, to be reported for review and evaluation in due course. First, efforts could be piloted in programmes in which any needs in this regard relate to private initiatives which are compatible with the ILO's purposes and objectives(25)  as well as the programme's operational objectives. Such situations could involve guidance in integrating the broader objectives of the programme with the ILO-consistent private initiatives.(26)  In other cases, in which there are needs relating to private initiatives but the private initiatives do not appear to be compatible with the ILO's purposes and objectives, assistance in achieving ILO-consistent objectives through effective and responsive market-compatible measures could be explored in the existing programme.

20. Emerging models of industry-based cooperation would seek to respond to private sector initiatives consistent with ILO objectives and standards in ways that build on the WISE and IPEC methodologies (see table 3 and footnote 26). The Office has recently received requests for industry-based assistance focused on working conditions other than child labour. The requests are of two types: the first is from the host government; the second involves a request from industry itself. As an example of the first, the Office is considering a programme in Haiti at the sectoral level (assembly industries). The programme would assist in improving working conditions and industrial relations. Designed in collaboration with industry representatives, the project envisages, inter alia, the establishment of a capacity for self-monitoring within the employers' organization, a voluntary system of independent verification for participating enterprises, and heightened inspection capacity in the Ministry of Social Affairs. As regards the second type, the Office has received a request by industry to assist, at industry's expense, in improving conditions of work addressing, among other issues, health and safety and child labour. Such assistance, were it developed within the appropriate framework, would appear to be in the interest of the Organization and further its objectives. However, further guidance from the decision-making bodies on appropriate safeguards for this second possible model of cooperation with industry is required.

21. Piloting new programmes targeting the needs of enterprise relating to private initiatives. The Organization could pilot new programmes (advice, guides, manuals, training, etc.) specifically targeted at the needs of enterprise in the field of private sector initiatives.(27)  These activities could involve direct Office services in the context of employers' and workers' organizations and private sector operations, provided on request. Services could also involve guidance to third parties wishing to offer assistance in response to private sector needs in a manner consistent with ILO objectives. In piloting such programmes, the Organization could address, as appropriate, issues such as: (1) how enterprises choosing to do so might translate, for day-to-day application through codes or other voluntary initiatives in enterprise operations, the aims underlying relevant ILO principles(28)  and standards;(29)  (2) how enterprises choosing to do so might administer voluntary initiatives at the enterprise, sectoral, national, or international level, in a manner consistent with the ILO's purposes and objectives,(30)  and might effectively meet technical and/or managerial challenges; and (3) how enterprises choosing to do so might conduct assessments of company performance, including internal monitoring and reporting, and might seek credible verification. Given sufficient expertise, one might envisage, at a future stage, the possibility of developing guidelines for the accreditation of social auditors. Programmes for social partners and the enterprise itself might be tailored, as appropriate, by sector, issue, or industry problem, in a manner similar to that reflected in the practice of tripartite sectoral meetings.

22. In many of its programmes the Office provides direct training to recipients based on materials it has developed. The field of private initiatives, however, presents a vast number and array of possible services relating to enterprise needs. If the Organization chooses to respond to such needs, it might be desirable to equip third parties to provide certain services while continuing to ensure that direct services by the Office are offered in cases where the assistance would otherwise be unavailable or inappropriate. Such an approach, based on the principles of fairness and efficiency, would reflect the ILO's character as a public international organization, and enhance its programmes relating to enterprises in particular (see, for example, table 3). The Organization's advice and services relating to enterprise needs should operate on an equally accessible and impartial basis, without discrimination. A cost-benefit analysis would favour the training of others to provide direct services following ILO models, rather than limit the services to those conducted only by the ILO directly.

23. Third-party capacity building, if deemed advisable, could involve the adaptation of existing models and methodologies already in use (see table 3). For example, one might build on the training of trainers approach, which enables future training programmes to proceed, based on ILO methods and approaches, but conducted by individuals not under the direction of the ILO. In some cases, licensing agreements with third party trainers who have completed ILO "training of trainer" programmes advance ILO objectives through private means. In general, the licensing agreements permit third parties to adapt, translate, reproduce, distribute and/or otherwise use ILO training materials in their regular business operations. A useful hybrid application of the licensing and training models is presented by the Portworker Development Programme (see table 3 -- PDP). In the licensing of PDP training materials to third parties seeking to conduct training for portworkers, a deliberate choice is made as to who in the port sector infrastructure is best equipped to provide ILO materials using its methods and approaches. The choice depends on the applicant's training capacity, reputation and other relevant factors. The Office continues to provide direct services in certain countries where insufficient capacity exists to meet needs through third parties. The proceeds from the licensing agreements are allocated to improving the quality and relevance of the training materials on a continuing basis.

(b) Measures to ensure the independence of the ILO
from commercial interests

24. Assuming that the Organization chooses to provide some form of assistance in the field of private initiatives in a way that would contribute to, and be guided by, the Organization's purposes and objectives, it should be recalled that the Organization is to remain independent of commercial (as well as other) interests. Given the social and economic environment of public pressure and private competition, it would be natural for those who receive assistance from the ILO to seek to publicize their efforts to their commercial advantage, or at least to differentiate themselves from others who are making no efforts of this kind.

25. In order to address acceptable means of publicizing ILO assistance while maintaining the Organization's independence and neutrality, a short policy document could be prepared by the ILO for enterprises and others receiving ILO assistance either through or on behalf of ILO constituents. Such a document could provide background information on the objectives of the Organization and its non-participation in assessing, certifying, or otherwise providing opinions on particular initiatives.(31)  The document could recall that use of the ILO logo in advertisements or other publicity is prohibited. It could also spell out ways in which enterprises and private actors could refer to international labour standards as well as assistance received through ILO programmes, which as such are in the public domain.

V. Future directions: A proactive position of engagement

26. The question of a possible proactive engagement for the Organization in the future with respect to the development and implementation of private initiatives, such as codes of conduct, was raised in the previous paper.(32)  The answer should depend on an assessment of the global impact of the phenomena on the achievement of the ILO's purposes and objectives.(33)  That assessment could be based on research into the impact of codes, experience in delivering and evaluating assistance programmes that might be undertaken, and other appropriate consultations within the Organization. The assessment could ultimately conclude that the impact on the ILO's objectives was either positive or less encouraging. In either case the results could inform other decisions that the Organization might take. At that stage, the Organization might choose, or refuse, to adopt a role in encouraging, and possibly assisting, directly or through third parties, in the development and administration of private sector initiatives, such as transnational codes, in ways that advance the ILO's purposes and objectives, including improving conditions of work and increasing employment.

27. In formulating a future role, it could be envisaged that the Office might consider adopting, as discussed in the previous paper, a set of recommended benchmarks concerning private sector initiatives such as codes of conduct, perhaps for voluntary subscription by social partners and enterprises. Such benchmarks could reflect a consensus among constituents concerning best practices in private sector initiatives relevant to the achievement of the ILO's purposes and objectives. The Tripartite Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy similarly reflects a consensus as to private sector conduct in multinational operations generally.

28. Taking into consideration the need for concrete implementation of the highly practical objectives of private sector initiatives, a framework for verification of the performance of private actors choosing such an assessment could be devised, but would necessarily be limited to initiatives committed to these ILO-recommended benchmarks. Such a system might perhaps be conducted by accredited third parties in a manner similar to that practised by the International Organization for Standardization,(34)  without the ILO itself supplying auditing or certification services directly (which could raise a number of constitutional and legal questions concerning the role and accountability of the ILO).(35)  Further considerations would involve feasibility assessments of the means of ensuring equal access to reputable auditors, particularly by developing country enterprises, and the provision of assistance to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as local enterprises in developing countries, have the means to honour their commitments to any such benchmarks.

VI. Concluding remarks

29. The above examples of research and operational approaches are given to illustrate the various possibilities that exist. The Working Party is invited to express its views on appropriate ILO action in this field in order to guide the Director-General in the preparation of future proposals. If necessary, the Governing Body may wish to request the Director-General to make provision for further discussion in the future.

Geneva, 5 March 1999.



Enterprise and Cooperative Development Department


Bureau for Multinational Enterprises


International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour


Industrial Relations and Labour Administration Department


Multidisciplinary Team


Sectoral Activities Department


Working Conditions and Environment Department


Table 1. Research projects in the Programme and Budget for 1998-99

Project title



Multinational codes of conduct and the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy


Purpose: To compare the content of codes of conduct among multinational enterprises with the provisions of the fundamental Conventions referred to in the Tripartite Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.

Methods: Collection of information involved survey research, direct requests for information and/or interviews with multinational enterprises, non-governmental organizations, representatives of workers and employers and government officials, and literature reviews.

Results: A compendium of codes of conduct and similar instruments will be completed by late 1999.

Corporate social responsibility and worker protection


Purpose: To examine the extent and nature of socially responsible programmes 1 adopted by enterprises as part of a continuing programme on work organization and worker protection.

Methods: Exploratory studies have involved illustrative analysis of national enterprise survey data available from a small number of countries, and examples of voluntary initiative programmes of individual enterprises to fight discrimination, improve safety and health and protect the environment. Cases of collective initiatives developed through collaboration between groups of enterprises, industry groups and associations, or with trade unions or other organizations, have also been included.

Results: The study, to be published later in 1999, will offer insights into current practices in order to open the way for further reflection and debate. Emphasis will be placed on identifying and examining specific socially responsible programmes developed within and between enterprises, rather than attempting to define or identify socially responsible enterprises.

Action programme on safety culture


Purpose : To evaluate existing practices related to occupational safety and health management (OSH) systems, and develop proposed guidelines for OSH management systems (OSH Guidelines) and a practical guide for the implementation of safety culture.

Methods : An overview of current practices in public and private standards relating to OSH management systems will be achieved through a review of the content of those standards. The management guidelines will be based on the relevant international labour standards adopted by the ILO, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) and the Occupational Health Services Convention, 1985 (No. 161). Later phases will address practices and procedures for the implementation and evaluation of enterprise performance.

Results : The evaluation of existing practices and OSH Guidelines will be finalized by late 1999, together with the practical guide, which is expected to cover such means as safety and health audits by workers and managers at the enterprise level.

Impact of labelling on child labour: experiences and policy perspectives


Purpose: To ascertain in what ways and to what effect labelling programmes as a whole operate in order to determine what long-term impact such programmes might have, along with others, in combating child labour and improving the situation of children.

Methods : Following the preliminary study entitled Labelling Child Labour Products , 2 policy-oriented research will attempt general conclusions based on intensive field research in Asia and Latin America. The examination will include whether and how such programmes help the children who are their intended beneficiaries and promote change in social attitudes about child labour in general.

Results: The study, to be completed in late 1999, will explore differences between programmes and identify their areas of greatest and least effectiveness and, as far as possible, the actual costs and cost-effectiveness of such programmes.

Action programme on social initiatives by enterprises relating to workers' protection and welfare


Purpose : To increase awareness of social initiatives adopted by enterprises with a view to their wider application.

Methods : The two-part focus examines: (1) how enterprise strategy, structure, policies and programmes are adapted to realize and support specific social objectives. Attention is paid to how enterprise response varies depending on the specific voluntary social initiative addressed (for example, those relating to child labour, occupational safety and health, discrimination and work, and family issues), and depending on the economic, socio-cultural and legal frameworks in which enterprises operate; (2) whether any common or key characteristics of different management systems are considered critical in effectively carrying out various social initiatives, taking into account the different ways enterprises adapt their resources. On the basis of a selection of social issues which have been the subject of enterprise initiatives, some of which may have been included in voluntary codes, case-studies are supplemented by surveys, interviews, and available literature.

Results: A publication will be completed by the end of 1999.

1 For the purposes of the study, "socially responsible programmes" are defined as initiatives developed voluntarily by enterprises which go beyond the minimum required by law to respect human rights and international labour standards, and to cover or avoid costs enterprise operations may impose on others. 2 J. Hilowitz, Labelling Child Labour Products (ILO, 1997).


Table 2. Potential areas for research

Project title



Implications of codes of conduct for labour relations


Purpose: To measure and evaluate the effects of codes on labour-management communication, consultation and negotiation. Many enterprises that have adopted or signed codes are operating in environments where the labour relations system is inadequate and no structures of labour-management consultation or negotiation exist. The study would assess whether, as a result of codes, new structures and procedures of labour-management communication, consultation and negotiation have been developed at the enterprise level, and their practical effects.

Methods: Twelve case-studies of selected enterprises and codes would examine the role that labour-management relations play, if any, in the following issues: how the code was devised, how it was introduced into the production chain, how it is managed, whether structures and procedures for communication, consultation and negotiation between management and labour at plant level have been introduced or improved as a result of the code, whether the key issues listed in the code are regularly dealt with in structures of communication, consultation or negotiation at enterprise level, and what role labour-management relations play, if any, in how the code is internally monitored and/or externally verified. Enterprises would include MNEs that have introduced codes at headquarters, subsidiaries of those MNEs, and independent subcontractors that have proactively adopted codes in addition to those seeking to adhere to codes imposed on them by lead firms. Operational and subscription-type codes (see GB.273/WP/SDL/1, sec. III) as well as regional and

Enterprise management practices relating to voluntary codes


Purpose: To identify key characteristics of management practices and systems established to address social and labour issues incorporated in codes of conduct.

Methods: Using a case-study approach, the research would be based on interviews with managers and other enterprise stakeholders with the objective of identifying some of the fundamental management challenges which typically accompany the introduction of voluntary codes, and to make an initial attempt to identify some of the management practices and systems which are regarded as effective in addressing these challenges. Research would include codes covering labour practices relating to fundamental rights. Case-studies would involve selected enterprises with codes applying to core enterprises as well as subsidiaries, suppliers, and enterprises subscribing to multi-enterprise or hybrid code systems. The research would be carried out using a survey method, desk study, and discussions with enterprise management, workers' representatives and other stakeholders.

Results: A publication of case-studies with general conclusions, as appropriate.

Resource implications: 6 work-months and $30,000.

Impact of codes on the operations and growth of developing country enterprises


Purpose: To examine the impact on developing country enterprises of codes of conduct adopted by multinational enterprises, in selected regions and economic sectors and, in particular, the impact on management and workplace practices, and on the ability of locally managed enterprises in developing countries to participate in the local and global market place.

Methods: The study would focus on questions concerning local company relationships with one or more MNEs, MNE communication with, assistance to, and assessment of local suppliers/companies, and the local and international comparative advantage of developing country enterprises on a time-based continuum. Particular attention would be given to the role of sectoral and group-based responses. Research methodology would include desk study, literature search, a review of existing pilot studies outside the Organization, surveys of and interviews with managers, workers' representatives and others in MNEs and a substantial number of developing country enterprises. Extensive use is likely to be made of qualitative data, anecdotal evidence, and quantitative as well as qualitative criteria of enterprise profitability, employment, market access, reputation, management style and systems.

Results: Given the multitude of factors involved in assessing enterprise performance, the study would be published as an ILO preliminary study.

Resource implications: 9 work-months and $75,000.

Impact of labelling initiatives in the agricultural sector


Purpose: To document the impact on demand and employment and working conditions of labelling initiatives for bananas, coffee, roses, and tea.

Methods: The research would focus on both ends of the production chain. After an initial stocktaking of their current status, at the consumer level, the research would seek to document changes in demand patterns caused by labelling initiatives, particularly the kind of premium that consumers are willing to pay to support fair production practices in the sector; at the production level, it would document the impact of labelling on labour conditions for workers and competition between producers. Research design at the consumer level would be focused on synthesizing experience of labelling in a number of developed countries, while at the production level it would comprise case-studies in two producing countries for each of the four crops.

Results: Working papers would be produced for workshops organized to disseminate the results.

Resource implications: 9 work-months and $40,000.

Impact of private initiatives in the textiles, clothing, footwear (TCF) and forestry sectors


Purpose: To examine the impact of private initiatives in the textiles, clothing, footwear (TCF) and forestry sectors.

Methods: In the forestry sector, an assessment of the use of codes of conduct and certification schemes in the forestry sector would seek to ascertain how social and labour aspects are covered in the various initiatives, how they affect the situation in certified or code-managed workplaces, and what repercussions they have for the sector itself. The study would address questions involving the comparability of enterprises adhering to codes or labels, the potential for discrimination against enterprises in certification schemes, and the reallocation, if any, of resulting market impact. Methodology would include questionnaires, interviews with sectoral constituents and others, and quantitative sampling stratified by country and enterprises, from which case-studies would be selected for a second stage analysis.

As follow-up on the research undertaken on business ethics in textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) 1 and on the work on forestry discussed above, national workshops would be held on a tripartite basis in two regions. Each workshop would involve participants in the examination of specific case-studies prepared in advance, within their own sector and other sectors. Case-studies, based on direct contacts and research materials, could include the Apparel Industry Partnership, Social Accountability 8000, the Ethical Trading Initiative, the Forestry Stewardship Council, Responsible Care, and various individual enterprise schemes.

Results: Publications would

1 J.P. Sajhau, Business Ethics in the Textile, Footwear and Clothing Sectors (ILO Working Paper, 1997).


Table 3. Examples of existing programmes in enterprise assistance


Dept(s) field offices



NB. This list of Office programmes is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to draw out examples in which the occasion may arise to address enterprise needs relating to private sector initiatives. In presenting these illustrations, the Office does not support any particular outcome, but awaits policy guidance as appropriate.

Conditions of work


Purpose : To promote effective, low-cost action aimed at improving conditions of work.

Methods: Guides, manuals, and training programmes are used to address enterprise needs relating to the improvement of working conditions. For example, the ILO's methodology, Work Improvements in Small Enterprises (WISE), provides the basis for training workshops for owners and managers of small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly in Asia, Latin America and Africa, on improving working conditions and productivity. The WISE methodology builds on local practice and voluntary initiatives; links working conditions with other management goals; encourages learning by doing and the exchange of experience; and emphasizes the need to adapt approaches to local needs and resources. It has been widely used in advisory services and technical cooperation activities undertaken in collaboration with employers' organizations and governments (such as labour inspectorates and research and training centres). To build institutional capacity in employers' organizations and government agencies, the training of trainers

J.E. Thurman, A.E. Louzine, K. Kogi, Higher Productivity and a Better Place to Work: Practical ideas for owners and managers of small and medium-sized industrial enterprises: Action Manual and Trainers' Manual (ILO, Geneva, 1988)

Carlos Hiba, ed., Improving Working Conditions and Productivity in the Garment Industry: An action manual (ILO, Geneva, 1998)

A better place to work: Safety, health and productivity (ILO and Department of Labor and Employment, Philippines, 1996): a joint effort within the framework of the Bureau of Workers' Activities project on workers' education on occupational safety and health

D. Chappell and V. Di Martino, Violence at Work (ILO, Geneva, 1998)

Protection of Workers' Personal Data, An ILO code of practice (ILO, Geneva, 1987)

Industry-based assistance in the elimination of child labour



Purpose: To eliminate child labour in the workplace and rehabilitate former working children in collaboration with industry and other non-governmental organizations.

Methods: Operating particularly in South Asian economic sectors based on an understanding with the host government, the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) includes a focus on capacity building in internal enterprise monitoring and external verification in order to enhance the capacity of public and private entities in the inspection of workplaces. The external verification component has been conducted, in an initial stage, by individuals operating under the direction of ILO officials, and with industry and government representatives in some cases, and on a voluntary basis for the enterprises concerned. The programme operates with a basic manual adapted for regional and sectoral purposes.

Future activities: IPEC is considering the development of training materials on "verification and monitoring systems on child labour". This type of intervention is becoming more

Training Package on Design, Management and Evaluation of Action Programmes on Child Labour (ILO, Geneva, 1994)

Occupational safety and health


Purpose: To encourage improved working conditions, environment and well-being of workers, particularly in hazardous occupations in countries with enforcement difficulties.

Methods: Means involve systematic and concerted action at the level of the enterprise with the involvement of social partners. Partners include governments, employers' and workers' organizations and individual enterprises; main target regions are Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, a subregional programme in the agricultural sector in Central America has involved more than 30 training programmes for OSH specialists and agricultural workers using pesticides. The programmes were used to train 240 managers and 1,200 workers. The training materials were distributed among workers' and employers' organizations, and more than 100 trainers were trained, with special attention given to the participation of rural women.

Future activities: SafeWork , a Global Programme on Safety and Health at Work, will include, among other major activities, the development of nationally adapted training programmes

Ergonomic Checkpoints: Practical and easy-to-implement solutions for improving safety, health and working conditions (ILO, Geneva, 1996)

African Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, and Asian-Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, including supplements, such as the Chemical Safety Training Modules, Suppl. 1/98 (ILO-CIS, International Programme on Chemical Safety)

Ed. J. Stellman, Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety , 4th edition, 4 volumes and CD-ROM (ILO, Geneva, 1998)

Asian-Pacific Regional Network on Occupational Safety and Health Information, available on the Internet

Small enterprise development


Purpose: To promote quality job creation through growth and development of small enterprises.

Methods: The International Small Enterprise Programme (ISEP) provides support services to constituents to encourage an enabling policy and regulatory environment for small business growth and development, and to build capacity for the provision of services to small enterprises through intermediaries, such as small and medium enterprise development institutions, workers' and employers' organizations, non-governmental organizations and financial intermediaries. Focuses of activity include: service delivery capacity, business development services (training, consultancy, information, market access, etc.), access to financial services, and job quality, including conditions of work.

Specific activities: One ISEP component, the Start and Improve Your Business Programme (ILO-SIYB), trains trainers in enhancing the competitiveness of small businesses, which leads to improvements in the number and quality of jobs. Initial training is often institutionalized through technical cooperation, after

Improve Your Business Basics -- International edition (ILO, Geneva, forthcoming 1999), with trainers' guide

Start Your Business: International edition (ILO, Geneva, forthcoming)

A. Tolentino, Guidelines for the analysis of policies and programmes for SME development (ILO, Geneva, 1995)

C. Maldonado, Le secteur informel en Afrique face aux contraintes légales et institutionnelles (French only, ILO, Geneva, 1998)

S. Theocharides, A. Tolentino , Integrated strategies for small enterprise development: A policy paper (ILO, Geneva, 1991)

Gender issues in micro-enterprise development (ILO, Geneva, 1998)

Services to medium and large enterprises


Purpose : To create and sustain quality employment by improving the viability, growth and expansion of medium and large enterprises and by improving employment conditions in these enterprises through promotion of the "high road" to the enhancement of productivity and competitiveness.

Methods : The Productivity and Management Development Programme assists in encouraging policy, legal, and regulatory environments conducive to productivity improvement and competitiveness; assisting in developing national consensus, dialogue and tripartite approaches to productivity; helping in the creation and strengthening of institutions providing productivity improvement and management development services to medium and large enterprise; helping employers' and workers' organizations to develop a full understanding and appreciation of various concepts and strategies for improving productivity and competitiveness; developing new approaches towards socially sensitive restructuring and strategic human resource management; and building the

J. Prokopenko and K. North, eds., Productivity and Quality Management: A modular programme (ILO, Geneva, and Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo, 1996)

J. Prokopenko, Productivity Management: A practical handbook (ILO, Geneva, 1987)

J. Prokopenko, ed., Management Development: A guide for the profession (ILO, Geneva, 1998)

D. Rondinelli, M. Iacono, Policies and Institutions for Managing Privatization: International experiences (ILO Turin Centre, Turin, 1996)

Services to consultants


Purpose : To build local consulting and training capability for enterprise development, specifically in the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, and to help develop programmes and provide services aimed at improving national and enterprise level productivity.

Methods : The Productivity and Management Development Programme uses a variety of means to achieve its aims, including: the development of practical guides and manuals; research and publication on new issues and approaches to management training and consulting; the creation and strengthening of training and consulting organizations such as management development institutes, national productivity centres and small and medium enterprise development organizations; direct training of trainers and consultants; the encouragement of networking among institutions and consultants.

M. Kubr, ed., Management consulting: A guide to the profession (ILO, Geneva, 1996)

M. Kubr, ed., Managing a management development institution (ILO, Geneva, 1982)

M. Kubr and J. Prokopenko, Diagnosing management training and development needs: Concepts and techniques (ILO, Geneva, 1989)

J. Prokopenko, Management consulting focused on productivity (ILO, Geneva, 1994)

A. Tolentino, Guides and instruments for improving organizational performance (ILO, Geneva, 1994)

J. Prokopenko, H. Johri and C. Cooper, Internal management consulting: Building in-house competences for sustainable improvements (ILO, Geneva, 1997)

G. Kanawaty, ed., Introduction to Work Study, 4th revised edition (ILO, Geneva,



Purpose: To promote vocational training among portworkers, based on ILO standards including based on Conventions (Nos. 137 and 152).

Methods: The Portworker Development Programme (PDP), a 30-volume training package, covers such issues as terminal operations, operational supervision and control, container and container ship construction, container packing, the handling of dangerous goods, and container terminal safety. The Programme is shared with commercial port operating companies and institutions in one of two ways. (1) In ports with advanced technology and high training capacity , the Office sells the package through a fixed-term licensing agreement permitting the licensee -- either a port operating company or port training institution -- to conduct training courses with the PDP. The licensing agreement is limited to a designated licensed territory, typically the port(s) in which the licensee has authority to train. The Office conducts an assessment, either through on-site evaluation or third-party verification, before agreeing to enter into a user license to determine that the proposed licensee has the authority and

Portworker Development Programme: "The ILO's global training strategy for your port" (ILO, Geneva, 1997), 30 instructional units



Purpose: To encourage the practical application of many ILO standards, codes of practice and guidelines addressing the working and living conditions of seafarers.

Methods: Workshops and seminars in the maritime industry have involved the collaboration of seafarers and shipowners as well as government officials. A Model Course on Inspection of Seafarers' Living and Working Conditions is being piloted as an interactive learning method, with a manual for trainers based on Convention No. 147 and its Appendix. In a related area, the Office has received requests from more than 800 shipowners, organizations and others concerned for copies of a manual on prevention of alcohol and drug abuse in the maritime sector.

Accident prevention on board ship at sea and in port: An ILO code of practice, 2nd revised edition (ILO, Geneva, 1996)

Inspection of labour conditions on board ship: Guidelines for procedure (ILO, Geneva, 1990)

Guidelines for Conducting Pre-Sea and Periodic Medical Fitness Examinations for Seafarers , ILO/WHO/D.2/1997 (ILO, Geneva, 1998)

Guiding principles on drug and alcohol testing procedure for worldwide application in the maritime industry , Joint ILO/WHO Committee on the Health of Seafarers, Geneva, 10-14 May 1993 (ILO, Geneva, 1994)

1. GB.273/WP/SDL/1.

2. ibid., para. 9.

3. ibid., paras. 136-139.

4. GB.274/PFA/9/1: Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01, Vol. 1 (1999, Geneva), p. 3.

5. The Organization was established for the pursuit of social justice in order to help achieve lasting peace. ILO Constitution, Preamble, para. 1; Declaration of Philadelphia, sec. II, para. 1. The Constitution provides examples of the objectives of the Organization which, as achieved, progressively enable and implement the fundamental purpose of social justice. These examples include the improvement of conditions of labour, enhancement of social protection, and promotion of full employment. The Constitution also addresses the means by which such objectives may be achieved. These include: standard setting and supervision; social dialogue; cooperation with member States in development policy and regulatory measures; strengthening of employers' and workers' organizations; and cooperation at the intergovernmental level in areas of common concern. The means at issue here -- the encouragement of appropriate self-regulation -- appear consistent with the Organization's fundamental purpose and constitutional objectives, and present policy issues that it is within the authority of the Governing Body to decide.

6. The four strategic objectives address: fundamental principles and rights at work; employment and income; social protection for all; and tripartism and social dialogue. See Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01, Vol. 1.

7. Hybrid codes involve coalitions which may include enterprises, NGOs and workers' representatives. See GB.273/WP/SDL/1, paras. 41-44.

8. Tripartite Meeting on Voluntary Initiatives affecting Training and Education on Safety, Health and Environment in the Chemical Industries, Geneva, 22-26 February 1999, TMCI/1999/7.

9. Best practices are defined as including: codes or guidance documents that allow companies to benchmark and communicate their HSE policies and performance, transnational agreements to spread best practices, and, through the use of "mutual assistance", the sharing of necessary technical expertise down the supply chain. Examples of assistance included such means as: raising awareness of the economic benefits of good HSE practices, training in the design and use of HSE management systems, the publication of performance indicators to serve as benchmarks, the loan of experts, and the provision of guidance documents. Among specific recommendations, the meeting proposed workers' participation at the procedural and substantive levels of the development, implementation and evaluation of HSE best practices.

10. The resolution "[r]ecommends that a model Code of Conduct for European Businesses should comprise existing minimum applicable international standards: the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy . . . in the field of labour rights: the ILO core Conventions . . . in the field of minority and indigenous peoples' rights: ILO Convention No. 169 . . ." It further "[c]alls on the Commission and on the Member States to take coordinated action within the OECD, the ILO and other international fora to promote the establishment of a truly independent and impartial monitoring mechanism which is internationally accepted". Resolution A4-0508/98, para. 29.

11. e.g., Income Data Services, Corporate Codes of Conduct and Labour Standards in Global Sourcing (Cardiff Business School, 1998); Interfaith Council for Corporate Responsibility, Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Benchmarks for Measuring Business Performance (1998). See also UNEP and Sustainability, The Social Reporting Report (1999). According to Sustainability (an NGO), "[s]etting up a framework for the process of social accounting and reporting is one of the key challenges now facing organizations committed to the sustainability transition".

12. Address by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "Markets for a Better World", 31 January 1999, Davos, Switzerland, UN Doc. SG/SM/6881/Rev.1.

13. ibid.

14. See paragraph 2 above.

15. For a discussion of the term "stakeholders", see GB.273/WP/SDL/1, note 10.

16. The area of discrimination, for example, would lend itself to pilot studies of auditing methods and assessments of the impact on the elimination of discrimination.

17. Other projects, such as those in the mining and oil/gas sectors, may target development issues relating to vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities and indigenous peoples, a focus which is reflected in certain labour standards.

18. Development needs and gender dimensions constitute cross-cutting issues. Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01, footnote 6 above, Vol. 1, p. 1.

19. See GB.273/WP/SDL/1, para. 136.

20. ibid., para. 19 (e.g., information resources and surveys on enterprise practices; training and education in monitoring and reporting; social auditing and verification services). See paras. 3-8 above. See, for example, "Sweatshop wars", The Economist, 27 Feb.-5 Mar. 1999, 66-67 ("brisk business" of Price-Waterhouse-Coopers, Ernst & Young and others in China and elsewhere, and in particular SA-8000 audits).

21. See, for example, the discussion of UNEP (environmental) and UNIDO and others (labour) in GB.273/WP/SDL/1, paras. 22-23, and the inquiries made to the ILO noted in paras. 3-8.

22. Conventions and Recommendations are, of course, directed to States, although many of them concern action to be taken by private entities. To the extent that these standards reflect underlying aims capable of being translated into day-to-day enterprise operations, they are relevant to Office programmes addressing needs relating to private sector initiatives.

23. See footnote 5.

24. ACT/EMP's technical and advisory programmes for employers and their organizations focus on, among other matters, integrating action on child labour into their organization's activities. See, e.g., Handbook on child labour: A guide for taking action (International Organization of Employers, in collaboration with ACT/EMP and IPEC, 1998).

25. For a discussion of the ILO's purposes and objectives, see footnote 6.

26. One example of this approach is the IPEC programme in Sialkot, Pakistan, which seeks to assist suppliers in eliminating child labour from the soccer ball stitching industry. Importing consumers' demands for the elimination of child labour influenced the suppliers as well as the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry, which developed a code of conduct for enterprises buying from the suppliers. ILO-IPEC has played no role in developing or monitoring the WFSGI code, but rather assists suppliers in the broader objective compatible with consumers' demands and the code: the effective detection and prevention of child labour, and rehabilitation of former working children.

27. GB.273/WP/SDL/1, para. 137.

28. e.g., ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998); ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (1977).

29. See footnote 22.

30. For a discussion of ILO purposes and objectives, see footnote 5.

31. For an example of such an approach, see Publicizing your ISO 9000 or ISO 14000 certification (ISO, 1997), developed by the International Organization for Standardization (see footnote 34 below).

32. GB.273/WP/SDL/1, para. 138.

33. For a discussion of the ILO's purposes and objectives, see footnote 5.

34. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) presents a model in which an international organization does not itself verify that its standards are being implemented properly, but rather leaves it to ISO national members, or independent third party certification bodies registered with national standards organizations, to inspect and issue certificates of conformity assessment with particular standards. ISO influences conformity through guidance documents and training activities. Its published guidelines address procedures for the selection and accreditation of certifying bodies, the establishment of criteria for certification, and acceptable methods for enterprises to use in publicizing conformity with ISO standards. For discussion of ISO as well as reported criticisms of its methods, see GB.273/WP/SDL/1, paras. 24-25, 118-19.

35. In the context of ILO-IPEC programmes, for example, the Office has sought to maintain any type of certification or reporting of enterprise performance as a matter for the non-governmental operating partners. This policy has arisen from concerns involving the capacity, jurisdiction and status of the Organization to directly certify the private sector as well as a desire to obviate any possible responsibility for future action by the certified entity that does not correspond to the commitment that it undertook.

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