Respecting Labour Rights: Business Leaders and the Changing Landscape of Decent Work

Respecting Labour Rights: Business Leaders and the Changing Landscape of Decent Work

Respecting Labour Rights: Business Leaders and the Changing Landscape of Decent Work was the second of the five-part webinar series “Paving the Way for Responsible Conduct in the Decade of Action” conducted by Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC).

Daria Naglic, GCNC’s Senior Manager, Programs and Business Relations, emphasized during opening remarks that the webinar would discuss how businesses are supporting labour standards and decent work within their operations and supply chains while also addressing the impacts of COVID-19. The discussion panel was comprised of Eira Thomson, President and CEO of Lucara Diamond Corp.; Kevin B. Coon, Partner at Baker McKenzie; and Mari-lou Dupont, Senior Manager, Decent Work and Social Sustainability at UN Global Compact.

Mari-lou Dupont started the conversation by underlining that labour – freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, elimination of forced and compulsory labour, abolition of child labour, and elimination of discrimination of employees and occupation – is central to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. As companies often identify labour rights and decent work as their biggest challenge or the most significant opportunity to generate positive impact, Mari-lou suggested that performing a human rights due diligence process is one key way for companies to better understand and assess their supply chains.

Speaking from the perspective of a mining company that predominantly operates in Botswana, Eira Thomson explained that decent work starts with strong governance frameworks, ensuring fair wages, and creating an environment where employees can receive training to improve their career development opportunities. While COVID-19 posed a significant set of challenges, she highlighted that Lucara Diamond Corp. implemented a crisis management plan to keep the workforce safe, it made available ongoing counseling to support employees’ mental health, and it offered relief efforts to the local community.

Kevin B. Coon shed light on the role of gender as it pertains to labour and decent work by outlining Baker McKenzie’s efforts to eliminate barriers faced by women lawyers. To combat what Coon called a notoriously challenging industry for women, Baker McKenzie offers a mentorship program that pairs senior executives with women lawyers and over the course of the pandemic, implemented mechanisms to provide mental health support and flexible work hours. In addition, the firm offers pro-bono legal advice assistance to Covenant House for victims of sexual exploitation and forced labour cases.

To help companies advance decent work, the UN Global Compact has several resources available. Mari-lou Dupont pointed out that the Action Platform on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains can help companies struggling with integrating human rights, decent work, and labour rights into procurement decision-making practices. Companies, governments, and stakeholders have also submitted pledges to support the Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. Lastly, the Leaders Summit held by UN Global Compact will feature an event on child labour and living wages to mark these important initiatives.

Eira Thomson and Kevin B. Coon closed the panel by agreeing on the importance of creating partnerships that can drive fundamental change in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and they discussed what made them hopeful about the future of decent work and labour standards. Eira was encouraged that more companies are recognizing that transparency is an essential means to creating a successful sustainable business. For Kevin, the growing recognition around the importance of the SDGs and the meaningful role being played by corporations makes him optimistic that businesses will continue to listen not only to shareholders but increasingly to stakeholders.

GCNC will be holding the third session “Refocusing the Decade of Delivery: How Businesses Can Drive Ambitious Corporate Climate Action” of this five-part webinar series, on June 10th from 1pm – 2pm EDT. Register here.


Eira Thomas: President & CEO : Lucara DiamondKevin B. Coon: Partner, Baker McKenzie L.L.P.Mari-lou Dupont: Senior Manager - UN Global Compact