The need for sustainability within our economy has been hammered into our minds for quite some time. However, this does not mean that it has necessarily translated into evident change within our business models and processes. At times, we struggle to understand how to reflect sustainability within our day-to-day business life without severely impacting our bottom line.
The truth is that it does not need to be a tug of war between sustainability and profitability. Oppositely striving to achieve one will actually contribute to the other side of the coin creating a win-win situation. However this may not be easy to achieve, but it’s definitely never too late to kick-start the process.
There are so many different areas to sustainability that it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer level of information. In view of this we thought of tackling one area at a time, starting off from Human Rights, an area which is particularly close to heart for society at large.
Perhaps it would be good to start off by asking, whether it’s truly that close to heart. Watching the news and criticising some gruesome shots is one thing, but reviewing our human rights impact as a business may not be that easy. As the first of a series of articles, today we’d like to outline some areas which human rights delve into, as it’s a hugely diverse topic.
Child labour is the first of the list. The United Nations estimates that around 218 million children are working full-time. As many of us have helped our parents and relatives and their jobs, let us define child labour as it may be a bit of a blur. The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labour as: “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”
The impacts that we are looking at would be:
Mental, Physical, Social Impacts
Interference with their schooling
Any work deemed to be morally dangerous and harmful
Health and Safety
Another key aspect to human rights is the right to health and safety within our job. The European Commission in its strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027 has determined that “Protecting people from health and safety hazards on the job is a key element of achieving sustained decent working conditions for all workers.” When tackling health and safety we are moving beyond basic safety physical features but delving also into the psychological risks related to the job in question.
Another hot potato within the human rights is forced labour. Many may deem Malta to be relatively free from forced labour but we may have to re-think this. The ILO defines forced labour as: “Forced or compulsory labour is all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.” Moreover the anti-slavery organisation believes that the industries where forced labour is most commonly found are:
Agriculture and fishing
Construction, mining, quarrying and brick kilns
Manufacturing, processing and packaging
Prostitution and sexual exploitation
Market trading and illegal activities
If we had to go back to our favourite news portals, we will surely find a number of articles which have actually enquired on this issue within our country.
Migrants are particularly at high risk of experiencing forced labour. However, it doesn’t stop there. There are numerous vulnerable groups that are at a higher risk of experiencing forced labour.
Rather than defining the women’s rights, as at times they may be taken for granted, let’s focus onto the five key areas which the EU through its document Empowering Women at Work has determined to be of particular importance for companies
Achievement of equal pay for work of equal value
Prevention and elimination of violence and harassment
Creating a harmonious work-life balance for both women and men
Equal representation of women in business and management roles
Investment in a future of work that works for women
When looking into each area it may be hard not to identify at least a couple of them where we may still lag behind.