Reflecting on the role of cooperatives in global supply chains at the 6th Regulating for Decent Work Conference

A paper on the role of cooperatives in advancing decent work in global supply chains was presented at the 6th Regulating for Decent Work (RDW) Conference that took place in the ILO Headquarters in Geneva from 8 to 10 July 2019.

News | 30 July 2019
This year’s RDW Conference focused on the future of work to advance understanding of what innovative institutions and transformative policies could help in ensuring a more equitable and just society. Papers were presented on four main tracks: (i) transitions and transformations in the world of work; (ii) rethinking capitalism; (iii) well-being in the world of work; and (iv) building and renewing institutions: a social contract for the 21st century.

ILO COOP participated in the Conference with the paper “What Role for Cooperatives for Advancing Decent Work in Global Supply Chains?” Drawing on existing literature, experiences from ILO projects and interviews with practitioners, the paper examines the role of cooperatives in alternative trade and its potential to promote decent work. Focusing specifically on the four areas of fundamental principles and rights at work the paper argues that the cooperative business model could be an effective tool to advance decent work especially in rural and informal economies where traditional social partners may not always be present or strong.

Cooperatives and their apex organizations can play a role in advancing freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation in their own operations, the operations of their members and across the supply chains where they operate.

The paper concludes that the often assumed positive link between alternative trade arrangements and alternative business models is not necessarily a given to achieve decent work in general and fundamental principles and rights at work in particular. They both need to engage with the building blocks of decent work, namely social dialogue, social protection, international labour standards and employment creation in order to improve people’s livelihoods, especially in the lowest tiers of the supply chains. The paper suggests that further efforts may be needed to turn cooperative commitments into operational realities. You can access the full paper here.