How Companies Can Tackle Poverty Through Inclusive Employment Strategies

September 26, 2019
  • Jessica Custer

    Former Associate Director, BSR

  • Sara Enright

    Former Director, BSR

Poverty continues to be a global challenge: roughly 735 million people still live on less than US$1.90 per day, the World Bank’s threshold for extreme poverty. A much greater number of individuals and families subsist below national poverty levels. Ending poverty in all forms everywhere is the first goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development agenda, which provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity. This goal, however, is not solely for national governments—companies have an enormous opportunity to contribute to ending global poverty through their existing operations.

Quality employment is one of the most effective, lasting ways to reduce poverty. As the provider of nine in 10 jobs worldwide, the private sector can take the lead in the fight against poverty and inequality by actively creating employment and advancement opportunities for those living in poverty—across their direct operations and their supply chains. What’s more, this is an investment that can create business value and build competitive advantage amidst evolving labor markets and increasing customer and stakeholder expectations for the private sector to contribute to sustainable development. While implementing a strategy to employ people living in poverty demands an investment, companies are likely to benefit over the long term from access to a largely untapped talent pool, strong operational outcomes, an enhanced brand reputation, and their ability to demonstrate additional social value to investors.

Today BSR and the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC) are pleased to launch the Reducing Poverty through Employment Toolkit. The Toolkit serves as a guide for companies on how to get started or how to enhance existing efforts to employ, empower, and improve the advancement prospects of those living in poverty as a part of their direct and indirect workforces.

Employment Strategies to Reduce Poverty

Every company can and should strive to contribute to greater social and economic equality in the communities they operate in and source from. This Toolkit is designed for use by employers at all stages of this journey. Through literature review and drawing on the extensive knowledge and good practices of GISC member companies around the globe, we have identified four key areas in which companies can get started implementing best practices to provide employment opportunities with the potential to create pathways out of poverty:

  • Setting the tone for inclusive employment through commitments, communication, and culture. This can include appointing leader from top management to champion efforts, defining and embedding inclusive employment goals and targets within operational plans, and communicating in a way that respects and empowers low-income job seekers.
  • Making adaptations across the employee life cycle to better identify, integrate, and empower low-income job seekers. In hiring, this can include identifying roles that require in-demand skills that can be learned on the job and creating a simple job application form; in onboarding it can include front-loading training on corporate norms and expectations and introducing peer mentorship; and in the long-term it can include offering paid, on-the-job training and helping employees develop portable skills.
  • Offering quality terms of employment that support sustainable livelihoods. This can include offering full-time, formal employment; enabling predictable scheduling with flexibility; offering stable, frequent pay periods; and paying a living wage.
  • Developing employee offerings that enable employment and build resilience. This can include offering life skills training, partnering with local experts to provide wrap-around support services, helping employees manage transportation, and ensuring better access to financial safety nets.

For more information and guidance on all these points, we invite you to download the Toolkit here.

This Toolkit is a project of the GISC, a collaboration between leading companies to build more inclusive global supply chains by hiring impact workers—people who were previously long-term unemployed or living in poverty. Last year, GISC launched the Impact Sourcing Challenge, calling on its members to hire 100,000 impact workers by the end of 2020. Member companies have so far pledged to create opportunities for over 30,000 new impact workers. This Toolkit aims to share the experiences and good practices that GISC members and other socially responsible businesses have deployed so that all companies can take steps to create more inclusive work environments.

We challenge all companies to get involved and contribute to this major global effort both through your operations and your supply chains—please contact GISC for information on how to join.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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