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Decent Work Toolkit for Sustainable Procurement

Supply chains are the most important levers for business to create positive impacts in the world, with an estimated 80% of global trade passing through them annually.
Procurement teams have a key role to play in creating sustainable supply chains but can often be disconnected from the sustainability function of the company. At the United Nations Global Compact, we recognize the need for procurement teams to be empowered to adopt sustainable practices that will impact their suppliers’ capacity to advance decent work. Companies are looking for ways to prioritize and commit to advancing decent work in their supply chains — not only to prevent reputational risks but also to significantly improve the lives of workers and lift millions out of poverty.

The Decent Work Toolkit for Sustainable Procurement will enable companies, procurement professionals and suppliers to develop a common understanding on how to advance decent work through purchasing decisions and scaling up efforts to improve lives around the globe.

To learn more about the Decent Work Toolkit:


Q: Who developed the “Decent Work Toolkit for Sustainable Procurement?”

This toolkit was developed by the United Nations Global Compact Decent Work in Global Supply Chains Action Platform, consisting of member companies and UN partners, namely the ILO and UNICEF, with support from consultancy twentyfifty ltd. This Action Platform is supported by SAP Ariba, the Government of Sweden and the UK Department of International Development. It builds an alliance of companies committed to respecting human rights and labour rights by leveraging their supply chains and taking collective action to address decent work deficits. For more information or a list of participating

companies, please go to the UN Global Compact Decent Work in Global Supply Chains website here.

Q: What is the purpose of the toolkit?

The purpose of this toolkit is to help both buyers and suppliers start or strengthen their dialogue to identify and address gaps in decent working conditions. It can also be useful when engaging with key stakeholders, including workers and/or their representatives and governments. It brings together a series of practical tools designed to:

  • Create an understanding of decent work and its relevance to purchasing teams
  • Support dialogue that engages, encourages and empowers suppliers to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provide decent work
  • Embed decent work in corporate processes and systems
  • Provide good practice examples of companies and suppliers taking action on decent work

Q: Who is this toolkit for?

The primary audience for this toolkit is:

  • Sustainability and CSR teams to engage procurement teams in improving working conditions in global supply chains
  • Procurement and corporate responsibility professionals to engage with their suppliers around the topic of decent work
  • Suppliers to better understand expectations from buyers related to decent work and help them in their communication with buyers when discussing the impact of buying decisions on decent working conditions

The toolkit could also provide guidance to all employees engaged in the corporate decision-making process, including the financial decision-makers, to better understand the CSR and sustainable procurement approach and practices of the company.

Q: How can it be used?

This publicly available toolkit contains assets that can be used directly by buyers to support their engagement with suppliers around decent work. It also contains tools to support the embedding of decent work concerns into buying activities and a set of case studies that provide practical examples of where buyers and suppliers have jointly addressed decent work concerns in supply chains.

This toolkit can be included in the starter pack for new procurement staff at your company, possibly with customized information relevant to your own company.

Q: My company is just getting started on our journey to advance sustainability. Is this toolkit an appropriate resource for us?

Yes. The toolkit aims to use simple language, avoid industry and UN jargon, and guide you through the material in different tools that build on each other.

Q: What is different about this approach?

This toolkit focuses on generating positive relationships between suppliers and buyers, based on openness, trust and transparency which are all necessary to improve working conditions in supply chains.

This toolkit presents a unique opportunity for companies, procurement professionals and suppliers to develop a common understanding on how to advance decent work through purchasing decisions and scale up efforts to improve the life of workers in global supply chains.

Q: How does the toolkit relate to the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been agreed by all governments. Yet, their success relies heavily on action and collaboration by the private sector and other stakeholders, including trade unions or workers’ representatives.

By using this toolkit, companies and in particular procurement professionals can take action in support of the achievement of Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth, which in turn can also support the achievement of other goals, including eliminating poverty, reducing inequality and gender equality. They can also inspire and support others – suppliers and business partners – to take action to improve decent working conditions.

Q: What does decent work mean?

Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace, social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations which works to make decent work a reality for workers everywhere. The ILO brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 Member States and sets international labour standards. Decent work and the four pillars of the ILO Decent Work Agenda – employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue – are integral elements of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 8 of the 2030 Agenda calls for the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work.

Q: Why is decent work important?

Decent work reduces inequality and conflict and increases resilience in society.

  • Decent work reduces inequality and conflict and increases resilience in
  • Decent work means individuals and families can meet their needs and have money to spend in the local
  • Decent work increases tax revenues for governments so they can fund social investments, including education which helps ensures the availability of skilled

The success of business is closely linked to the prosperity of the communities in which they produce and sell. Sustainable enterprises need sustainable societies: business tends to thrive where societies thrive and vice versa. This requires social and economic inclusiveness, as well as equity in the distribution of and access to resources.

Decent work supports the growth and development of companies, especially small and medium enterprises, so that they are able to hire more workers, improve their pay and working conditions, and lift up local economies.

Q: Why is this topic relevant to my business?

Ensuring and supporting decent work is part of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights across operations and business relationships. This responsibility requires business enterprises to carry out due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their actual and potential adverse impacts that relate to internationally recognized human rights. There can be legal, financial and reputational consequences if enterprises fail to meet the responsibility to respect.

Such failure may also hamper an enterprise’s ability to recruit and retain staff, and gain permits, investment, new project opportunities or similar benefits essential for successful, sustainable business. As a result, where business poses a risk to human rights, it increasingly also poses a risk to its own long-term interests.