This is a question I’ve been asked quite a few times by companies to whom no-one pays much attention to on CSR issues.
I suggest to them in training sessions and workshops that they seek out local NGOs when choosing factories, plantations, local/national companies or even areas to source from.
The idea behind it is basic risk management: Local NGOs could tell you which factory or farm owners are known for treating workers badly, or well.
They can help with monitoring of specific working conditions, improving worker health, helping contract factory workers speak up or gain access to their rights, proper documentation etc.
But where, asked several CSR supply chain managers, am I supposed to find them when I go to visit suppliers and contractors?
India has over a million NGOs, so an executive from Tata told me back in 2005. One source told me recently it’s many more than that.
How then, should a supply chain CSR manager from a sourcing company that no-one has really heard much about (ie not Nike, or Gap or one of the big buyers) find NGOs to engage?
Here’s a few ways I thought of, I’m sure there are others readers could suggest:
1) Visit the offices of the big international NGOs in-country and ask their local officers who is active around certain factories.
2) Get in touch with community healthcare clinics, or local hospitals, find an experienced doctor to ask.
3) Ask some workers if you are doing interviews out of sight of factory management.
4) Speak to shift, farm and factory managers, ask which organisations can help the workers gain access to their rights.
5) ‘Encourage’ your audit firm to actually include an NGO mapping element in their reports back to you, and to do some of the above, if they can.
6) Ask your relevant CSR membership organisation to build a database of NGOs on a country by country basis, share information with other companies as to who is who, and their capabilities.
Much of this is all very simple stuff. But the question has come up enough times that I figured it might be worth a blog post on the topic. Look forward to comments.