Colombian companies are interested in the International Responsible Business Agreements (IRBC’s) as a way to make their supply chains sustainable. That is the conclusion of the fact-finding mission by Femke den Hartog and Peter Boorsma which took place in March. Boorsma is country manager of DECP. Den Hartog is corporate social responsibility manager of Inretail, sector organisation of producers and retailers of textiles in the Netherlands. She is also a board member of Fair Wear.
International Responsible Business Agreements (IRBC) – IMVO-convenanten in Dutch – are voluntary agreements between sector organisations, trade unions and NGOs to prevent abuses in the value chain. The partners develop long-term strategies to tackle complex problems together. The agreements are based, among other things, on the OECD guidelines, and the Ruggie Framework.
The two main objectives of the agreements are, first, improving conditions in risk areas such as child labor, low wages, human rights violations and environmental pollution within three to five years after signing. And, second, offering a collective solution to problems that companies cannot solve themselves. The IRBC’s have proven to be quite successful for Dutch sectors.
DECP came to Bogotá and Medellín on invitation of employers’ organisation ANDI. Den Hartog presented the Human Rights Committee about IRBC’s of ANDI and conducted a workshop for Medellin-based companies about due diligence.
ANDI decided to further explore possibilities of using the IRBC-methodology in Colombia. CSR-officials of both big and intermediate companies were also enthusiastic. “There are leaders and there is intrinsic motivation”, says Den Hartog. “Companies want to know more about due diligence. They see the usefulness and necessity of greater transparency and a mature due diligence policy as a business case. They realize that adequate due diligence is necessary to continue doing business with the EU in the future.”
According to Den Hartog companies want to have more in depth knowledge about due diligence and are looking for good tools to achieve this objective. ‘They are experimenting how to implement stakeholder management and in particular how they should relate themselves to local unions.”