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Impact Study on Social Standards

Center for Corporate Responsibility Impact Study on Social Standards

Jörg Schmidt, Deputy Head of the Center for Corporate Responsibility, presenting the results of an impact analysis on the use of social standards in China. (Photo: amfori)

Be it occupational safety in textile mills or the low income of cocoa producers: In global trade, social challenges are everywhere. Swiss companies with global supply chains, in particular, need to contribute towards improving the situation. Possible solutions were discussed at an event organized by amfori and Swiss Fair Trade in Basel.

Effects and Limitations of Sustainable Trade

In early February, a diverse audience of approx. 90 participants met in Basel to discuss current challenges of sustainable trade. These included representatives from companies, NGOs, and fair trade organizations, as well as local and cantonal authorities and the federal government. This diversity also extended to the program, jointly organized by amfori and Swiss Fair Trade. Topics included the different roles of individual players along global supply chains as well as the effects and limitations of tools to address social challenges on the ground. Guest speakers representing Migros, Max Havelaar, and the canton of Bern presented possible approaches.

Example of an Impact Study on Social Standards

The Center for Corporate Responsibility of the ZHAW School of Management and Law presented an impact study on social standards conducted among the suppliers of Swiss supermarket chain Migros. As part of a guided practical project, Swiss and Chinese students had interviewed management and staff of factories producing simple household goods in China. Their findings were supplemented by interviews with independent organizations on economic and social developments in the region. Among other things, the results showed that compliance with standards is generally felt to have a positive effect on the relationship with Western customers. Many companies also rated the effect of the standards on working conditions as positive. However, they currently see little benefit in using them. Associations such as amfori are called on to provide on-site training to promote a better understanding of the benefits and increase the motivation of companies.

Joint Action as an Important Prerequisite

Here, as with many other, similar examples, it became clear that progress in building responsible and sustainable trade relations requires a common approach by all stakeholder groups. When consumers, business enterprises, and fair trade organizations work together and collaborate with the manufacturers or small farmers in the producing countries, the effect can increase exponentially and obstacles be removed. In this respect, the many contributions and the increased sense of responsibility of participants in the event – especially from those who have been active for many years – are an important step in the right direction.

Link to the abstracts, pictures, and downloads of the amfori presentations:

Link to the abstracts, pictures, and downloads of the presentations by Swiss Fair Trade: