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Social Dialogue: a corporate social responsibility ‘blind spot’

Vigeo Eiris reviews the commitments and mechanisms that listed companies put in place to ensure effective social dialogue: one of the least developed themes addressed by companies in their social responsibility indicators and reporting.

The companies were evaluated on the visibility and ownership of their commitments, the diversity of topics and the level of dialogue with employee representatives, their relationships with employee representative bodies, the resources allocated to social dialogue projects, as well as management teams’ ability to improve the quality and scope of information for social partners, and to develop  consultation and collective bargaining.

Key Findings:

– Although social dialogue is a fundamental right included in and promoted by ILO international standards and at the heart of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recommendations for 2030, it still appears to be a corporate social responsibility ‘blind spot’: Vigeo Eris allocated an average overall score of just 25/100 to the companies under review.

– Only a small minority of companies worldwide (4%) issued a formalised commitment (based on public documents) to conduct social dialogue with employee representatives – the same rate as during 2014 – 2015.

– 62% of companies make no commitment on social dialogue, even though they communicate objectives and indicators on the quality of their relationships with customers and shareholders, or regarding environmental protection.

– Companies headquartered in Europe perform slightly better than their peers on social dialogue, with an average score of 38/100, compared to 17/100 for North American companies, 19/100 for Asia Pacific companies and 26/100 for Emerging Market companies.

– The subjects most often addressed in collective bargaining are employee salaries (72% of companies listed in Europe, 41% in North America, 28% in Asia Pacific, 14% in Emerging Markets), health and safety conditions (70% of companies listed in Europe, 39% in North America, 25% in Asia Pacific, 14% in Emerging Markets), and working hours (64% of companies listed in Europe, 36% in North America, 23% in Asia Pacific, 9% in Emerging Markets).

– Only a small minority of companies have employee representatives at Board level. This is the case for 5% of companies in Europe (despite disparities among countries), compared to 3% of companies in North America and only 1% in Asia Pacific.

– Given technological developments such as digitalisation, artificial intelligence and emerging risks such as nanotechnologies, there is an urgent need to include technological challenges in collective bargaining, such as the right to disconnect and changes to working conditions due to automation.

Read more in the complete Focus below

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