Sustainable enterprises

Enterprises are key to ensuring economic growth and employment creation. Business can meet their needs of competitiveness and profitability by contributing to sustainable development and advancing long-term economic, social and environmental goals. The promotion of sustainable enterprises is at heart of the decent work paradigm, which entails the combination of job creation with rights at work, social protection and social dialogue. Sustainable enterprises comply with national laws and regulations and contribute to socio-economic progress by applying labour standards, ethical values and other social and environmental principles to their business operations. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the central role of companies of all size and sectors in solving societal challenges through responsible business conduct, innovation and collaboration. In doing business, sustainable enterprises prioritize workers’ social protection and engage in sound industrial relations and in social dialogue through their employer organizations.

The strategy of the ILO for the promotion of sustainable enterprises is focused on assisting the governments and the social partners in creating an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises with effective institutions and governance systems, promoting entrepreneurship and business development and disseminating sustainable and responsible workplace practices.

Areas of work

Knowledge development and dissemination

  • Development of information resources, tools and methodologies to support enterprises to make sustainable decisions based on an increased understanding of labour market and economic and social conditions, particularly in the developing world and in times of crisis and uncertainty
  • Evaluation of the contribution of small economic units to employment creation and identification of challenges for micro, small and medium enterprises
  • Knowledge development on labour and social practices of the multinational enterprises and analysing the labour and social effects of their operations in home and host countries
  • Research and analysis to better understand the challenges and opportunities for the world of work arising from a green transition
  • Research on the economic, social, societal and political importance of cooperatives, and supporting the efforts in having comprehensive and internationally comparable statistics on the cooperatives
  • Research on the role of the social and solidarity economy and solidarity finance in sustainable development and the future of work and employment
  • Collecting data on employment injury insurance and protection and analyzing the effectiveness of the relevant country policies

Advisory services and technical support


  • ILO-IFC Better Work Programme brings together governments, global brands, factory owners, and unions and workers to improve working conditions in the garment industry and supply chains in accordance with the principles of decent work
  • Equal Pay International Coalition led by the ILO, UN Women and the OECD, supports governments, employers, workers and their organizations in achieving equal pay for women and men everywhere
  • Global Business and Disability Network is a unique platform for business-to-business support and peer-to-peer learning on disability issues. It aims to create a global workforce culture that is respectful and welcoming of people with disabilities
  • Child Labour Platform is a business-led initiative to eliminate child labour in supply chains
  • Global Business Network on Forced Labour and Human Trafficking brings together ILO with businesses and their networks to eradicate forced labour
  • A Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors – a platform for enterprises to share experiences on social protection and to foster their involvement in the installation of public social protection systems in the countries of their operations
  • Global Apprenticeship Network is a platform aimed at promotion work-based learning including apprenticeships as a way to address the mismatch between the skills people have and the skills employers need