Goal 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Around half the world’s population lives on around US$2 a day, and in many places a job doesn’t guarantee escape from poverty. The basic social contract underlying democratic societies: that all must share in progress, has been eroded by unequitable economic and social policies. Sustainable growth requires quality jobs that stimulate the economy without harming the environment.
What is Goal 8?
Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. The targets under this Goal are broad in scope, and include a focus on innovation and technology for economic production (8.2), global resource efficiency in consumption and production (8.4), achieving decent work for all (8.5) and promoting workplace health and safety (8.8). Other targets under the Goal allude to preventing modern slavery (8.7) and the protection of labour rights (8.8).
Why is Goal 8 important?
For many, access to decent work is the key route out of poverty and hunger. As such, the achievement of Goal 8 is strongly connected to several other Goals; not least Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) and Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities). Moreover, ensuring decent work and economic growth is a goal that all companies can rally behind. By promoting fair labour practices, working to eradicate forced labour, and decoupling their activities from social and environmental harm, companies make themselves more attractive to consumers, employees and investors. Recent reports have highlighted how the millennial generation in particular are starting to choose employers and investments with a social conscience.
In many countries, the unemployment rate is still staggering, reaching over 25% in South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique. In 2017, an estimated 42.5% of all workers worldwide were in precarious forms of employment, with this increasing to 76.5% in developing countries. Even in the UK, there are issues; in 2017, 11.2% of those aged 16-24 were classified as 'NEET'- not in education, employment or training. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds face particular challenges, and, according to the Social Mobility Commission, are 2.5 times less likely to gain professional jobs than their middle-class counterparts.
How can companies contribute?
Since the provision of decent working conditions is a key aspect of Goal 8, most companies can, and should, be contributing. All companies operating in the UK are now legally required to publish a Modern Slavery Act statement, detailing the measures that they are taking to prevent forced labour within their supply chains (target 8.7). Additionally, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers are bound to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees (target 8.8). At Ethical Screening, we record these activities as part of our ESG analysis, with our SDG analysis focusing on actions which go beyond legal obligations to ensure a safe and inclusive workplace.
One way that companies can support Goal 8 is through facilitating paid apprenticeships and internships. We record a contribution when companies have established programmes of a significant scope and scale. Examples include SSP, which offers apprenticeship qualifications in a number of countries. These include an 'into work' programme for disadvantaged young people in the UK, and schemes for ex-offenders and young people with disabilities in Singapore. Page Group runs the Page Talent business, which helps students to find internships and apprenticeships with prospective employers, as well as providing online careers advice and hosting workshops in schools and colleges. The company has also collaborated with the Professional and Business Services Council to create a Diversity and Inclusion Guide for Businesses. Such activities contribute to targets 8.5 (to achieve full and productive work for all, including those with disabilities) and 8.6 (to reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training).
A number of companies make a direct contribution to Goal 8 through the products and services that they offer. Bureau Veritas provides testing, inspection and certification services covering a range of issues, including workplace health and safety and environmental management. It also offers an online supply chain management system, OneSource, which provides clients with customised information, reporting and audit tracking services. Similarly, Intertek offers a variety of health and safety management services, including certification, as well as supplier audits with a specific human rights focus. Both of these companies contribute to targets 8.7 (eradicate forced labour) and 8.8 (protect labour rights and promote safe working environments). Additionally, their focus on environmental management contributes to target 8.4 - to improve global resource efficiency, and to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.
Companies can also contribute to Goal 8 through the provision of financial services. Targets 8.3 and 8.10 aim to promote access to financial services for all, including small-and-medium-sized enterprises. In 2014 and 2015, Lloyds Bank issued two ESG bonds totalling GBP 500 million, maturing in 2018 and 2022 respectively. 93% of the funds were issued to small-and-medium-sized enterprises and health care providers in economically disadvantaged parts of England. The bank has also launched an ESG deposit scheme, with 100% of funds being allocated to disadvantaged areas. ING Groenbank directs 10% of its balance sheet towards financial inclusion activities in the Netherlands, with microfinance as a main component. It lends to companies engaged in organic farming, renewable energy generation, sustainable construction and the re-use of waste materials, among others. Such activities also contribute to target 1.4 (to ensure equal rights to economic resources and access to basic services, including microfinance).
Achieving Goal 8 is vital if we are to eradicate poverty and ensure a sustainable economy for the future. As illustrated above, much still needs to be done in order to secure decent work for all. Besides ensuring safe and fair working conditions, companies can contribute by:
- facilitating access to employment, particularly to those from disadvantaged groups;
- offering relevant products and services, such as human rights, health and safety, and environmental management and auditing; and
- supporting access to finance.
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