Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

Contributing to a just world/elimination of extreme poverty

10 Feb 2016

Sustainable Development Goals, the post 2015 development agenda, involvement of companies, John Ruggie, UN and where Turkey and The Netherlands team up.

Why does a person have a job, why do we want/need to earn money? Paying one’s mortgage, taking care of one’s loved ones and/or self-development, all worthwhile reasons. One could also use his/her job to make a difference in the world, starting by helping at least one person, in line with my favourite Chinese saying: he who saves a person saves mankind.

At the end of January a Dutch financed two days’ workshop took place in Istanbul: “the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in supply chains: company implementation and civil society perspectives”.

We see results that we did not consider possible a decade ago. As recently as in 2011 the UN Human Rights Council adopted the Guiding Principles of the duties and responsibilities of governments and companies in the field of human rights.

Developments since then have gone fast; we see a rapid increase in public awareness of the correlation between business and human and social rights, also promoted by the business community itself, from the bigger multinationals such as Unilever or Tata steel to smaller companies and individual business people.

Long gone is the time that companies could hide behind the first segment of the supply chain and deny responsibility for what happened further down the line, what happened to children in a Bangladesh factory, to men in Bolivian tin mines or women in textile sweat shops. The number of consumers asking for sustainable and just products is on the rise. Companies started to comply, first perhaps forced by the circumstances, but increasingly out of their own free will.

There are already very encouraging signs and actions in Turkey. Take for example business tycoon Mustafa Koç, who sadly died last week and was praised extensively for his role in promoting better rights for working women. There is the Dutch supported cooperation between TNO and the Turkish Metal Federation to improve labor safety.

Thanks to an initiative by Dutch minister Ploumen (Foreign Trade/Development Cooperation) much has been done in the cotton supply chain and in the social dialogue in the Turkish garment industry. Actions were also taken to roll back children labor in the hazelnut industry.

The speeches by Shift, Oxfam and Global Compact Network were excellent. Listening to them, hearing the reactions from the audience, including Turkish companies, you feel that also in Turkey the time is ripe to accelerate the fundamental changes impacting the way we produce and consume. We must involve all, consumers, producers, civil society and government. At the Dutch Consulate we will do our share; soon we will meet with some leading Turkish CEO’s to see how we can push this agenda forward. Yes, these are moments when one feels his/her job is relevant and contributes to meaningful changes.

Rereading my blog I realise I sound on rather optimistic. Most consumers still go for the cheapest product, most producers for the highest profit. However, I am confident that this time around a fundamental restructuring of supply chains is underway.

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About the author

Robert Schuddeboom
Written by Robert Schuddeboom

Dutch Consul General in Istanbul

Irregularly I write about Turkey, a fascinating country.