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A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses
Child working as a stonemason

Communicating, Not Policing

Over the past two decades, many companies have discovered through experience that auditing workplaces and remediating violations alone does not solve many of the labor problems found at production sites.  Training, capacity building and an emphasis on continuous improvement have been found to be the most effective way to make progress toward greater compliance with codes of conduct.  Developing long-term relationships with suppliers as well as with other key stakeholders, is the best foundation for this kind of capacity building and continuous improvement.

Example In Action

IKEA’s Collaborative Approach to Communicating Across the Supply Chain

IKEA’s Way on Purchasing Home Furnishing Products (IWAY) Standard covers the minimum requirements for its suppliers and their subcontractors.  It addresses 14 areas of environmental, social and working conditions, including child labor and forced labor.  But IKEA has come to recognize that merely having a comprehensive code of conduct is not enough to ensure ethical sourcing, so it works to increase stakeholder understanding of, and ability to adhere to, its code. 

One way it does this is by having IKEA designers and product developers and purchasers work onsite in factories to gain first-hand knowledge of the challenges in each one.  When violations of the IWAY Standard are found, these IKEA employees can then work quickly to help management remediate the situation and help prevent recurrences using strategies tailored for that specific factory.  Additionally, because they have opportunities to build relationships with the workers in these worksites, the employees’ help is more likely to be well received.  Finally, IKEA holds workshops for its suppliers to learn about problems workers and sub-contractors feel are prevalent in their day-to-day work in order to better understand how to prevent occurrences of violations such as child labor.

For more information, see IKEA’s IWAY and Preventing Child Labor webpages.

Various forms of communication with stakeholders are discussed throughout all the sections of this toolkit.  This section focuses on two specific forms of communication:  training and capacity building, both of which you should provide to all parties responsible for making your social compliance system work, including entities in your supply chains.  It also addresses options for grievance mechanisms through which workers, advocates and communities can bring human rights issues to your attention without fear of reprisal.