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ILO and H&M Group expand partnership

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H&M Group and the International Labour Organization (ILO) today announced a new, expanded partnership to jointly promote improved working conditions in the textile and garment industry supply chains.

The new agreement expands an existing partnership, and continues the longstanding, close collaboration between H&M Group and the ILO that aims to strengthen work in H&M Group’s supply chain on sustainability. The new partnership will include more H&M Group business functions than before, making it even broader.

The renewed and expanded partnership was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, Karl-Johan Persson, CEO, H&M Group and Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M Group.

“The continuation of this successful partnership with H&M Group is important as it provides a basis on which to continue to promote both the Decent Work Agenda  and Sustainable Development Goals  in workplaces worldwide in a key economic sector. Lessons learned from these kinds of partnerships are important to inform the ILO’s work with the private sector,” said Rie Vejs-Kjeldgaard, Director of Partnerships at the ILO.

The flagship Better Work  Programme of the ILO, jointly managed by the International Finance Corporation, will play a key role in implementing activities under the agreement. The Better Work Programme operates in seven countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Nicaragua and Viet Nam) working with about 1,600 factories that employ around 2,200,000 workers.

“We know strengthened industrial relations and social dialogue are a must when working towards improved working conditions and productivity within the supply chain. Thanks to our longstanding partnership with the ILO, which now has been renewed, we can continue working together towards this goal,” said Gedda.

H&M Group and the ILO have been working together since 2001 in countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh. They have specifically addressed a range of issues including wages, work quality, productivity, and the documentation and recognition of workers’ skills.

Both parties to the agreement acknowledge that systemic changes are needed in terms of labour relations by working with governments, trade unions and employers’ organizations.

While global production systems have created millions of job opportunities in the garment sector, mostly for young women, sometimes wages and working conditions are not in compliance with national labour laws. At times, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are restricted or denied. Legal minimum wages are not always implemented or enforced or are set too low to adequately support livelihoods.

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Making the impossible possible

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photo: UN Environment

Sitting at a bus stop one day when she was 16, When Miranda Wang saw someone throw a plastic bottle into a trash bin, even though the recycling bin was right next to it.

“It just made me realize that the problem is so much bigger than the behavior of individual people,” she said. “Globally, only 9 per cent of plastics produced are actually recycled. That’s because as a society, we lack recycling technologies that can make virgin-quality products from plastic waste.”

“My project is a social impact startup developing and scaling up a new technology to recycle unrecyclable plastics. Over the past year, the project has snowballed, and we are seeing massive interest in this area,” she said.

Since starting up her company BioCellection, and winning the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Young Champions of the Earth prize in 2018, twenty-five-year-old Wang and her team have invented a US$ 5 million technology that breaks down plastics into chemical building blocks, upcycling them into higher value materials for manufacturing.

The first engineering drawings for the technology scale-up have been completed, and multiple materials from the resulting purified compounds from breaking down plastics have been tested.

The company has already completed two thirds of a pilot programme to test the technology at scale with the City of San José, California, United States, and other tests have already been completed with Google among others.  

The team has expanded, with eight new hires instead of the projected four, winning grants and prizes including the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Pritzker Environmental Genius Award and MIT Solve.

In addition to refining the recycling technology, Wang has appeared in magazines including TIME, the New York Times, Monocle, Marie Claire, National Geographic and many others over the last 12 months.  

Why not become part of a global movement, and tell us what you are doing to turn the tide on plastic pollution. Take the Clean Seas pledge!

Do you have what it takes to be a Young Champion of the Earth? Stay tuned here to follow stories of previous winners and changemakers.

UN Environment

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AfDB hosts talks with ICRC on making an impact through collaboration

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The African Development Bank held talks with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Vice-President Gilles Carbonnier at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on furthering their shared development goals.

The main purpose of the meeting, held on 20 January, was to discuss collaboration between the institutions and share the progress made since the signing of a Bank-ICRC memorandum of understanding to explore partnership opportunities.

“It is mainly through operation and cooperation that we are going to learn exactly how best to work together to be more relevant, more impactful,” Carbonnier said.

The Bank-ICRC collaboration centers on working in areas of fragility in Africa, with special emphasis on building resilience, particularly among women and girls.

Representatives from the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Complex, the Bank’s Transitional States Coordination Office and the Bank’s Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery Complex were present. The talks were facilitated by Catherine Cudré-Mauroux, Bank Executive Director for Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal.

Calling the Bank-ICRC partnership “a natural fit”, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Dr. Jennifer Blanke, said: “There’s a recognition that if you look at humanitarian work that might be in the same region year after year, you cannot deal with that, without some development element, which we can bring in. From our perspective, there are a lot of places in Africa where we want to be working on development impact.” 

Another area of interest is investing in vulnerable women in the Sahel Region and North Africa.

“We know that we reach higher returns when investing in women. Studies demonstrate that women reinvest most of their income (up to 90%) in providing a social safety net for their families, with a ripple effect on health, education, nutrition and youth empowerment. Investments today will yield tomorrow’s returns,” said Vanessa Moungar, Director for the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department.

Moungar’s department spearheads the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative, which the Bank sees as a key component of improving women’s access to economic resources.

Participants also agreed to focus on internally displaced persons and their host communities.

“The idea is to scale up our work in the field,” said Patricia Danzi, ICRC Regional Director for Africa. “We want to be able to do more than what the Bank or ICRC would have done alone.”

The ICRC and the Bank say future discussions will address technical, legal, financial and field aspects, with an eye toward accelerating the partnership implementation.

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ILO: Employment policies are key to address the challenge of migration

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photo: ILO

Employment policies and strategic alliances to seek effective and sustainable solutions are key to address the challenge of international migration, said the ILO during the 12th Summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development  that concluded today in the capital of Ecuador.

“Most migration is directly or indirectly related to the world of work, where there are now 164 million migrant workers or 70% of all working age migrants, and nearly half are women”, recalled the ILO Regional Director a.i. for Latin America and the Caribbean, Juan Hunt, speaking Thursday night at the closing plenary session of the Forum.

Hunt stressed that “As we look to the future, we can recognize that International migration is a reflection of global shifts, challenges and transformations, including in technology, in the world of work”.

The meeting in Quito this week brought together some 1300 delegates from 150 countries, international organizations, civil society, workers’ and employers’ organizations, and local authorities, among others. The Global Forum was created in 2007 to facilitate discussion on how to generate better policies for international migration, develop innovative ideas and build partnerships.

“The ILO shares the view that partnerships among Governments, academia, media, mayors and migrants, as well as with world of work actors –business, employers´ and workers organizations and trade unions –are critical in shaping evidence-based dialogue and public perceptions,” said Hunt.

He added that “ILO encourages social dialogue in the development and implementation of labour migration policies. This brings durability and legitimacy to programmes that support decent work.”

The ILO Regional Director reminded the plenary that “decent work deficits, humanitarian issues and other challenges such as climate change exacerbate these situations and will continue to drive migration across the world.”

ILO’s standards are particularly important in this regard as they lay the foundation for achieving decent work for all, including for realizing fundamental rights and freedoms, reducing vulnerability and exploitation, he explained.

“When migration and employment policies are well coordinated, we can make progress in eliminating recruitment fees and costs for migrant workers which reduce their savings and, in worst cases, lead to human trafficking and debt bondage,” he added.

Regarding the meeting in Quito, the ILO Regional Director considered that it has been an intense and rich summit that touched upon many aspects of the migratory phenomenon, included new actors in the discussion such as local authorities.

In his speech, he stressed the importance of countering at the international level “the negative rhetoric surrounding migration” and of increasing “the capacity of response” to the challenges posed by the mobility of large numbers of human beings from one country to another.

“A human-centred approach to the future of work is crucial if we are to continue to meet labour markets needs while also ensuring workers are protected and can fulfil their potential without discrimination or exploitation,” said Hunt.

The ILO delegation to the XII Summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Ecuador was headed by the Regional Director and the Director of the ILO Labour Migration Branch, Michelle Leighton.

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