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Center for Corporate Responsibility presents impact assessment study on social standards

Occupational safety in textile factories, the salary of cocoa producers – global trade faces a wide range of social challenges. Global economic players, including Swiss companies with global supply chains, therefore need to contribute to an improvement in the situation. How such an improvement can be achieved was discussed at an event in Basel organised by the amfori global business association for open and sustainable trade and Swiss Fair Trade.

Jörg Schmidt, deputy head of Center for Corporate Responsibility, presenting the results of an impact analysis of the application of social standards in China (Photo: amfori)

About 90 participants discuss impact and limits of sustainable trade

At the beginning of February, representatives from companies, NGOs and fair-trade organisations, as well as from local authorities, cantons and the Swiss Confederation, met in Basel to debate current sustainable trade challenges. This debate was part of the Swiss Forum «Sustainable World Trade» organised by the associated companies amfori and Swiss Fair Trade. The subject of the discussion was the roles of individual players in the global supply chain, as well as the impact and limits of instruments used by these players to meet local social challenges. Presentations given by the Federation of Migros Cooperatives, Max Havelaar and the canton of Bern showed some possible ways to meet these challenges.

Impact assessment study on social standards as an example

The Center for Corporate Responsibility in the ZHAW School of Management and Law presented an impact assessment study on social standards of Migros suppliers. Within the scope of a guided practice-oriented project, Swiss and Chinese students surveyed the management and employees of manufacturing plants of simple household goods in China. In addition to these surveys, people from independent organisations were asked about local economic and social development.

«The results show that complying with the standards is generally seen as having a positive effect on the relationship with western clients. Furthermore, a large number of companies think that the impact on working conditions tends to be beneficial. However, the companies state that they have not yet seen many advantages for themselves here. Associations such as amfori are requested to highlight these advantages during local training in order to enhance motivation in the companies.»

(Jörg Schmidt, Deputy Head of the Center for Corporate Responsibility)

Joint action as important requirement

This and many other examples showed that joint action between different players is necessary for progress in establishing responsible and sustainable trade relations. Impact can be increased and obstacles overcome if consumers, together with commercial enterprises and fair-trade organisations, cooperate with producers and farmers in the producing countries. The diversity of the contributions and the increased awareness of responsibility of the players at the event made everyone - particularly participants who have been active for a long time - feel confident about the future.

Contact

Dr. Jörg Schmidt, Deputy Head of the Center for Corporate Responsibility, ZHAW School of Management and Law, Tel. +41 (0)58 934 40 73, E-mail: joerg.schmidt@zhaw.ch