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A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses
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Multi-Stakeholder Groups

Some companies establish or join groups comprised of multiple stakeholders.  There are many benefits to involvement in multi-stakeholder groups, including learning from other companies and other non-corporate experts, and providing a safe space to engage collectively with different stakeholders. 

Example In Action

Child Labour Platform

The Child Labour Platform (CLP) was launched at the 2010 Child Labor Conference in The Hague, Netherlands, by the Dutch Ministry of Social Welfare, the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the Dutch NGO the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), and several companies including C&A, IKEA and Toms Chocolate.  By the end of 2011, the CLP consisted of some 30 companies in the tourism, cocoa, cotton, textile and mining sectors, in addition to the Dutch Trade Union FNV, as well as a group of NGOs acting as advisors.  In its first year, the CLP focused on the development of good practice notes from the experience of participating companies on the elimination of child labor.  In 2012, the CLP merged with the UNGC’s Labor Working Group, becoming a new work stream of the Group.  The ILO continues to seek to mobilize resources to strengthen the capacity of the CLP. 

Learn more about the CLP.

Example In Action

Project Kaleidoscope’s Partnerships with Local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

“The Project Kaleidoscope Working Group (PKWG) was formed with the goal of improving working conditions in ten factories in China. Members were McDonald’s and the Walt Disney Company, along with representatives from a shareholder group, a government entity and NGOs (Domini Social Investments, State of Connecticut Treasurer’s Office, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Center for Reflection, Education and Action and As You Sow). The project focused on setting up systems within each factory to assist its managers, supervisors and workers in assessing and improving work situations. The project lasted three years.

The project decided from the outset that it would need the participation of local CSOs to ensure credibility, cultural sensitivity and localized expertise in relevant issues, particularly those related to workers. It engaged The Asia Foundation (TAF) to help identify candidates. With a long history of work in China and past worker-related projects in the Pearl River Delta region, TAF had both relevant expertise and the requisite local network. Using criteria provided by the PKWG, it used a three-phase process to identify and then screen potential candidates.

In the first phase, TAF interviewed individuals in 22 organizations with operations related to labor issues in Guangdong Province, Beijing and/or Hong Kong. Interviewees represented a wide range of organizations—academic institutions, CSOs, corporations and government agencies. They were asked a series of questions designed to identify a large pool of potential candidates with experience in one or more of the areas relevant to project needs. The interviews and other research yielded an initial pool of 37 individuals and organizations. Of these, nine individuals representing seven organizations were selected for further review. TAF conducted face-to-face interviews with the short-listed candidates, using a set of approximately 20 questions based on specific selection criteria. They explored their:

  • Institutional capacities and resources of the organizations.
  • Direct experience with factories in southern China.
  • Familiarity with global labor issues and standards.
  • Relationships with factory owners and managers, the government, multinational companies, and donor and other organizations involved in labor issues.
  • Current constraints (e.g., staff capacity).
  • Willingness to work comfortably within project guidelines, e.g., protection of confidentiality.

Based on this process, the PKWG decided to engage two local CSOs and also selected an in-country project coordinator.”

Excerpted from:  Project Kaleidoscope Working Group, PKWG Final Report.   

Example In Action

Responsible Cotton Network

The Responsible Cotton Network is a multi-stakeholder group that formed to encourage socially responsible sourcing of cotton.  Network partners include representatives from foundations, industry associations, investors, investment management companies, NGOs and trade associations.  The group’s major focus is on the practices of forced and child labor in cotton production in Uzbekistan.  By offering a private, web-based space for sharing information and coordinating independent activities, the Responsible Cotton Network aims to accelerate the transition to a socially responsible and sustainable global cotton supply.

For more information, visit the Responsible Sourcing Network.

Example In Action

Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco-Growing (ECLT) Foundation

“Set up in 2001, the ECLT Foundation addresses the drivers of child labor in the tobacco‐growing sector. It is a partnership of tobacco growers, tobacco companies and workers’ unions and works with communities and local government, as well as children, to change attitudes and provide increased access to basic services and livelihoods.

ECLT is active in tobacco-growing areas where child labor is prevalent, in particular Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan. It has a diverse range of partners including the government in the Philippines, a multilateral agency (ILO) in Tanzania, a workers’ union in Kyrgyzstan and NGOs elsewhere. All projects have national project advisory committees that reflect the tripartite make‐up of the ECLT board (companies, growers and unions).

ECLT views the causes of child labor as poverty, lack of food security, absence of quality education, poor health and lack of family care due to HIV/AIDS. Parents also take children with them when they work long distances from home, and have no child care alternatives. In partnership with governments and communities, ECLT seeks to address these issues through a range of projects that respond to local circumstances. These projects provide alternative ways for parents and guardians to increase their incomes and improve food security. They also focus on changing local attitudes towards child labor, providing access to education, vocational training, health and other basic services.”

Source:  ECLT Submission to Consultative Group to Eliminate the Use of Child Labor and Forced Labor in Imported Agricultural Products, April 27, 2010.

In recent years various business coalitions have formed to share information and develop best practices around the issue of trafficking in persons in supply chains.  The End Human Trafficking Now! Campaign, launched in 2006, was the first global private sector initiative focused on anti-trafficking.  It includes companies such as Gap Inc., Manpower Group and Microsoft, and outcomes include an e-learning tool, awareness-raising activities and investment in programs to benefit at-risk populations.  More recently, a group of businesses led by Manpower Group and Lexis-Nexis formed the Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking, which aims to raise public awareness about exploitation and trafficking and find collaborative business solutions to combat it.

In 2012, Manpower Group teamed with the NGO Verité to develop an Ethical Framework for Cross-Border Labor Recruitment, which provides benchmarks for company practices in a variety of areas related to cross-border worker migration.  The intention is to develop an ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogue around this framework.

If your company chooses to form a multi-stakeholder group or join an existing one, it is important to apply the same sound management principles to the group as you do to your social compliance system as a whole.  The entity should have clear goals and objectives and metrics or performance indicators to assess progress against them.  It should have processes in place for decision-making and governance, and these processes and policies should be documented.  And it should have defined members with distinct roles and responsibilities.  

Example In Action

Tripartite Efforts to Eliminate Child Labor in the Sugarcane Fields in the Philippines

The Government of the Philippines and the country’s sugar industry and worker organizations participate in a DOL-funded project targeting children working in sugarcane.  Activities include:

  • Sugar industry stakeholders signed a voluntary code of conduct to abide by child labor laws in an effort to self-regulate.
  • The industry is developing a child labor policy through tripartite consultations.
  • Government agencies, sugar industry partners, and multinational company Coca-Cola signed an agreement of intent to collaborate to reduce child labor through education and livelihood programs for vulnerable families.
  • The project, in coordination with the sugar industry, developed a university program in Mindanao for sugar farm management designed to train new farmers on techniques and new technology to increase productivity and eliminate the demand for child labor. Children of sugar farm workers will be prioritized for selection into the program.
  • The project developed a multi-pronged child labor monitoring approach to coordinate Department of Labor and Employment inspections with self-monitoring by the sugar industry for underage workers and hazardous conditions as well as plans to train workers’ organizations to monitor the age and working conditions of minors.

DOL funded an additional project in 2011 designed to reduce child labor in sugar producing areas in 11 provinces of the Philippines, which will be implemented through 2015.  The project engages the Government and sugar industry in raising awareness of child labor among sugar workers and their families.  National and local government agencies as well as many sugar stakeholders, farmers, millers, regional and national associations and foundations are collaborating to implement a program to address child labor from the perspective of the workers and their families as well as the employers.