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Context and Framework for Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives
If you are faced with challenges and questions in doing your due diligence, you are not alone! On the contrary, many companies have asked themselves the same questions and have faced the same practical, organisational or technical challenges. Many of them have found answers to these questions among their peers by joining multi-stakeholder initiatives, which also provide them with access to practical support.
Multi-stakeholder initiatives are platforms for engagement and dialogue that bring together several stakeholders around common objectives. These are interactive processes in which companies, non-profit organisations and possibly other groups of stakeholders work together to help their members implement their responsible business conduct (RBC) strategy.
Over the past two decades, multi-stakeholder initiatives have been established in almost all major global value chains. Nowadays, these initiatives are central pillars of many organisations' human rights strategies.
What Is the Added Value of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives for My Company?
Multi-stakeholder initiatives can fulfil a wide variety of purposes, such as
- bringing together a diversity of stakeholders,
- creating mutual understanding,
- cross-sectoral learning,
- capacity building,
- setting standards,
- certification and verification of good practice.
For SMEs, these initiatives allow for the use of the collective leverage effect with potential suppliers or buyers, in order to demand compliance with certain social, environmental, human rights and governance standards and values. They will themselves be able to meet the demands of co-contractors and consumers. The initiatives also make it possible to benefit from the pooling of resources, in some instances, by providing common recourse mechanisms or directly transposable examples of codes of conduct or tools for screening their suppliers.
Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives in Belgium
The Shift network defines itself as the meeting place for sustainable development in Belgium, conducting the transition towards a more sustainable society and economy. The network brings together more than 500 members including large corporations, SMEs, public authorities, NGOs and consultants. The team offers several training courses and seminars taught by experts from within or outside of the network. Members can share their priorities and difficulties at networking meetings. Members are also invited to commit to at least one of the 15 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
International Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives
There are many initiatives at international level, mostly with sectoral approaches. The following is a non-exhaustive list, established on a sectoral basis.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent, non-profit organisation that promotes more sustainable fishing. Among other initiatives, the MSC has developed a global environmental standard for sustainable fishing practices. Companies that comply with this standard are entitled to use the MSC’s blue “Certified Sustainable Seafood” eco label.
Air Defence Industries
The AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) is the voice of the European aerospace, defence and security industries. It represents over 3,000 companies and actively supports the competitive development of the sector in Europe and worldwide.
Food Processing Industry
The Sustainable Agriculture Initiatives were created by the food industry in order to communicate and actively support the development of sustainable agriculture. The platform's work involves various actors in the food production chain.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is an international platform set up to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil through the establishment of and compliance with global standards. They engage the various stakeholders in the sector and lead to the placing on the market of certified sustainable palm oil. The platform brings together producers, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors as well as environmental and social rights NGOs.
The World Cocoa Foundation promotes sustainable cocoa production. The organisation focuses on environmental sustainability and the development of production techniques that respect people and the environment. It also serves as a forum for debate on the needs of the cocoa growing sector.
The Ethical Tea Partnership is an alliance of tea packaging companies cooperating to improve the sustainability of the tea industry as well as the immediate living conditions of workers on plantations.
Industries in the Chemical Sector
Responsible Care is an initiative of the chemical industry. Companies that join the initiative work together to continuously improve their health, safety and environmental efforts and to inform stakeholders about their products and processes.
The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative is a platform of pharmaceutical companies working to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes for all parties involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain. This includes improving conditions for workers, economic development and a cleaner environment for local communities.
The organisation has developed the pharmaceutical industry's principles for a responsible supply chain management. These principles cover five areas of responsible business operations:
- working conditions,
- health and safety,
- the environment and
- related management systems.
The Responsible Jewellery Council promotes ethical, social, environmental and good human rights practices along the diamond and gold supply chains. To this end, the organisation set up a certification system at the end of 2009.
The Kimberley Process is an initiative involving governments, the industry and civil society in an effort to curb the extraction and sale of diamonds from conflict zones.
Better Work is a programme that aims to support companies in their compliance with international labour standards along global supply chains. The programme is the result of a collaboration between the ILO and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
The Fair Labour Association is a multi-stakeholder organisation that works to promote accountability and transparency among clothing and textile manufacturers, by:
- providing training to workers and factory management,
- promoting due diligence through independent assessments and
- calling for greater accountability and transparency of companies, manufacturers, factories and other actors in global supply chains.
The Better Cotton Initiative is the world's largest cotton sustainability programme. The platform works with a wide range of stakeholders in the cotton industry, from field to shop, in order to promote measurable and continuous improvements for the environment, farming communities and the economies of cotton producing regions. Its two main objectives are to:
- reduce the environmental impact of cotton production and
- improve livelihoods and economic development in cotton-producing regions.
The Responsible Leather Initiative aims to bring together industry stakeholders around three key priorities:
- lead the development of a global standard,
- serve as a platform for sharing information, and
- carry a collective message to other industries, initiatives and governments.
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights is a platform that provides security and safety guidelines for companies in the extractive industries, within a framework that ensures respect for fundamental human and constitutional rights.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative aims to strengthen good governance through increased transparency and accountability in countries with extractive mining industries. The platform has established a global standard to promote the open and responsible management of oil, gas and mineral resources. The standard requires disclosure of information along the entire value chain of the extractive industry, from the point of extraction to the consumer.
The Responsible Minerals Initiative aims to provide its members with the necessary tools and resources to make decisions along their supply chains that improve regulatory compliance and support responsible sourcing in high-risk conflict zones.
The International Tin Supply Chain Initiative (ITSCI) helps its members to avoid conflict financing, human rights abuses or deal with other risks such as corruption along mineral supply chains.
The Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights is a multi-stakeholder coalition of international and intergovernmental organisations, governments, sports governing bodies, athletes, unions, sponsors, broadcasters and civil society groups. Through dialogue and joint action, their mission is to ensure that all actors involved in the organisation of an event take full ownership of their respective human rights duties and responsibilities and make them operational throughout the life cycle of major sporting events.
The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative is one of the leading global initiatives to improve transparency and accountability in public infrastructure. The platform works with governments, the private sector and civil society to promote the disclosure, validation and interpretation of data from infrastructure projects.
The Equator Principles is a sector-wide initiative established by private banks. The principles relate to corporate responsibility in lending and financing. The platform provides tools and a methodology to identify, assess and manage environmental and social risks in financing projects. Its main purpose is to provide a minimum standard of due diligence and control to support responsible risk decision-making.