Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CSR professional advocates for putting CSR on the Board agenda

In this compelling piece on the glass ceiling for CSR managers (and corporate social responsibility itself), Marie d'Huart argues that Corporate Social Responsibility has to be part of the mandate of the top of corporate management, including at the Board level.  She points out that many mid-level CSR managers find themselves in the awkward position of recommending that management decisions be countermanded without having the authority or support within the management structure for these recommendations.

Financial compliance is now embodied in U.S. corporate law through the Audit Committee - why not create a similar mechanism at the Board level for Corporate Social Responsibility, along with a Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at the same level as the Corporate Financial, Executive and Operations Officer?

A fundamental management principle common to company policies banning financial malfeasance and bribery of government officials on the one hand and prohibiting racial, sex-based and other kinds of discrimination and harassment on the other is the need for ethics and behavior modelling at the top - along with effective, swift and fair discipline of malfeasors.  Leadership at the top has an important impact on the culture of an organization or company.  CSR experts point out that there is often a disconnect between the buyers who set prices and manage contracts with manufacturing subcontractors on the one hand and the CSR managers who develop and implement policies and corporate codes of decent conduct.  With these kinds of internal disconnects, it is no wonder that multinational companies find themselves in the position of learning they have sourced products from factories so unsafe that they quite literally collapse on the workers, as happened in Bangladesh earlier this year.  As d'Huart points out, only by setting strategy at the top level of a company with leaders that have sufficient authority and a full view of all aspects of operations can a company overcome these kinds of disconnects.  People who act as a company's conscience at mid-level and management levels of the governance structure should receive the training and opportunities to allow them to rise to top level leadership.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Great piece in Huffington Post about Global Jobs Crisis

I really liked this piece on the need for a Jobs Strategy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and EU-US FTA by Michael Shank and Sabina Dewan in yesterday's Huffington Post.   Shank and Dewan draw some interesting and powerful linkages about the potential impact of the current global jobs crisis and the lack of decent work for so many around the world.  The parallels between our own age with Rana Plaza and social unrest are eerily like those of a century ago with the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and that era's social movements.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How does the EU's strategy against racial discrimination compare to that of the NAFTA region?

Next week ILERA's 10th European Regional Conference is happening in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  The theme is Imagining New Employment Relations and New Solidarities.  Most of the papers are up and can be downloaded here.  The conference has a lot of great themes and papers which I look forward to highlighting and discussing in this blog over the next few weeks.

My own paper discusses and analyzes the effectiveness of the European Union's strategy against racial discrimination.  As in the United States, where unemployment rates among African Americans and Latinos are 2 to 3 times those among the majority, the European Union has major disparities in employment outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities in comparison to the majority population.  In Europe, racial and ethnic minorities are generally defined as "Third Country Nationals" or second and third generation third country nationals - basically, people who migrate to the EU from non-European countries.  The Roma (previously known as Gypsies) are also included as ethnic minorities, but with a separate set of problems. 

The European Union differs significantly from the NAFTA region because it has a number of legal and policy instruments that can be utilized to combat racial discrimination on a regional basis, including the Race Equality Directive of 2000, a regional European Employment Strategy and its various progeny and updates like Europe 2020 and a European Social Fund. Sadly, we do not have these kinds of instruments at our disposal in our region.  So the EU has several steps up the regional ladder in comparison to the NAFTA region, and we should look at these examples for regional policy making - a subject for further research.  Moreover, EU institutions like the European Commission and European Parliament are constantly reviewing and revising both policies and outcomes with the goal of improving their effectiveness.  EU institutions also systematically involve trade unions and employer groups in the establishment of regional labor market policy, something that was not done under the NAFTA labor side agreement before the North American Commission for Labor Cooperation Secretariat closed in 2010, and which has been done rarely in U.S. policy.  A rare instance in the U.S. case is when trade unions and employer groups got so exasperated with inaction on Capitol Hill that they partnered together to push a joint Immigration Reform agenda.

Nevertheless, the investment of significant regional resources by the EU into combating racial discrimination - which is critical to the maintenance of EU social security systems in the future due to changing demographics - has not really had a huge (if any) impact on reducing high unemployment among Europe's racial minorities.  It could simply be a matter of time.  It has been less than 15 years since these laws and policies were put into place.  My analysis is that these policies are ineffective for a couple of reasons, however.  The primary reason is Europe's racial minorities are perpetually defined as "Other" and "Not European" with the use of the term "third country national."  Other major reasons include not systematically including representatives of racial minority groups in designing regional law and policy.  The EU is simply not asking the right questions of the right people.  Finally, not enough attention is paid to existing economic survival strategies of European immigrant communities.

So the EU's strategy against racial discrimination is light years ahead of that of the NAFTA region (which does not have one) but it depends on how the the EU strategy adapts and evolves over the next several years to see if it will have a genuine impact.