How has the work of B4IG on curbing inequalities changed over the past three years?
When the coalition was launched in the summer of 2019, a growing number of companies were convinced that they had a critical role to play in the fight against inequality, but it had nothing to do with today’s awareness. The COVID-19 crisis as well as the Black Lives Matter movement acted as an accelerator. COP26 also marked a crucial turning point wherein many businesses redirected support toward the concept of “just transition,” being aware that they must anticipate and manage the social impact of their climate strategy and policies.
In its early stage, just transition was a relatively underdeveloped concept. It is less and less the case with the increased traction in recent months. This indicates significant progress. A growing number of citizens in developed countries and beyond are demanding a new economic growth model that puts people at its center. Businesses have a pivotal role in answering this call and are now aware of it. Several business coalitions have put social issues and the fight against inequality on their agenda. This is no longer only the responsibility of governments. Looking at where we started, this stands as a key step forward.
How can B4IG’s corporate partners collectively make the most impact on inequalities?
Tackling inequality is not easy. We are working together with the OECD and with our partners (including international organizations, trade unions organizations, academics and foundations) to develop a pathway for change, an approach for tackling different forms of inequality in a consistent manner through business actions. How we act depends on the topic. When it is relevant, we adopt collective statements to accelerate change, for example on living wage, where the working group led by Unilever and L’Oréal has an ambitious program of work, that may enable major transformations thanks to our partnership with the OECD.
We also share experiences and practices to equip companies, for example on inclusive sourcing, on which we will soon publish an operational methodology, building on L’Oréal’s existing approach. In addition to this, we incubate 10 to 15 projects per year to promote innovative and transformational approaches for inclusive growth. Last but not least, we advocate for new public-private partnerships to shape the path for inclusive growth. Proactive dialogue with local and national governments will be instrumental in creating the most impact.
Why do we need a business coalition like B4IG to be part of the mix of more specific-issue coalitions out there?
Sustainability issues are deeply intertwined. A coalition covering all social issues naturally makes sense. Diversity and Inclusion issues matter in workplaces as well as in value chains. The same with living wage. If you consider skills gaps and needs, your approach to upskilling and reskilling can’t be limited to your organization and will have to take into account communities. In a nutshell, I am not sure that coalitions should replicate silos that exist within companies and administrations. We need a consistent and comprehensive approach to sustainability issues, especially social issues.
More and more people expect business to step up on social issues. How do you see the role of business evolving in this context?
The voluntary contribution of companies to the common good is nothing new, but it used to depend on individual initiatives. There is now a strong pressure from stakeholders, investors, consumers, employees, et cetera, to accelerate the path and opt for a more systemic approach. The reasons for this call may vary: Some may argue that inclusive practices make businesses more resilient, while others argue global corporations can have more impact than public practices, for example. It doesn’t mean that the partition between governments and businesses has changed, but that there is an avenue for new forms of collaborations.
Governments usually influence businesses through tax policies and regulations. I believe more and more in public-private partnerships defining common objectives. From this perspective, the mandatory reporting on non-financial performance that should emerge in 2022, starting with climate disclosure, should be very helpful as it will define a common language between governments and businesses.