Introduction and Toolkit Structure


Supply chains continue to be one of the most important levers for business to create positive impact in the world, with an estimated 80 per cent of global trade passing through them annually. Companies that commit to advancing working conditions in their supply chains can significantly improve the lives of many people — often of those who will benefit the most from sustainable development — and lift millions out of poverty. Procurement professionals are key actors in this process and can act as powerful change agents, working together with their suppliers to make these positive impacts a reality.

By using this engagement toolkit, companies and in particular procurement professionals can take action in support of the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, which in turn can also support the achievement of other goals. They can also inspire and support others – suppliers and business partners – to take action to improve decent working conditions. 1

Ensuring and supporting decent work is part of the corporate responsibility to respect human and labour rights across operations and business relationships.2 This responsibility requires business enterprises to carry out due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their actual and potential adverse impacts that relate to internationally recognized human rights.3

There can be legal, financial and reputational consequences if enterprises fail to meet the responsibility to respect. Such failure may also hamper an enterprise’s ability to recruit and retain staff and gain permits, investment, new project opportunities or similar benefits essential for successful, sustainable business. As a result, where business poses a risk to human rights, it increasingly also poses a risk to its own long-term interests.

About the Decent Work in Global Supply Chains Action Platform

This toolkit was developed by the United Nations Global Compact Decent Work in Global Supply Chains Action Platform consisting of member companies and United Nations partners, namely the ILO and UNICEF. It builds an alliance of companies committed to respecting human rights and labour rights by leveraging their supply chains and taking collective action to address decent work deficits. For more information or a list of participating companies, please visit the UN Global Compact Decent Work in Global Supply Chains website.

About the United Nations Global Compact

As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Launched in 2000, the mandate of the UN Global Compact is to guide and support the global business community in advancing UN goals and values through responsible corporate practices. With more than 15,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and more than 69 Local Networks, it is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world.

For more information, follow @globalcompact on social media and visit our website at

Purpose and approach

The purpose of this toolkit is to help both buyers and suppliers start or strengthen their dialogue to identify and address gaps in decent working conditions. It can also be useful when engaging with key stakeholders, including workers and/or their representatives and Governments.4

It brings together a series of practical tools designed to:

  • Deepen understanding about decent work and its relevance to purchasing teams
  • Support dialogue that engages, encourages and empowers suppliers to address the SDGs and provide decent work
  • Embed decent work in corporate processes and systems
  • Provide good practice examples of companies and suppliers taking action on decent work

Who is this toolkit for?

The audience for and purpose of this Toolkit is primarily:

  • Sustainability and CSR teams to engage with procurement teams in improving working conditions in global supply chains.
  • Procurement and corporate responsibility professionals to engage with their suppliers around the topic of decent work
  • Suppliers to better understand expectations from buyers related to decent work and help them in their communication with buyers when discussing the impact of buying decisions on decent working conditions

The toolkit could also provide guidance to all employees engaged in the corporate decision-making process, including the financial decision-makers, to better understand the CSR and sustainable procurement approach and practices of the company.

How can it be used?

This toolkit contains assets that can be used directly by buyers to support their engagement with suppliers around decent work. It also contains tools to support the embedding of decent work concerns into buying activities and a set of case studies that provide practical examples of where buyers and suppliers have jointly addressed decent work concerns in supply chains.

This toolkit can be included in the starter pack for new procurement staff at your company, possibly with customized information relevant to your own company.

What is different about this approach?

This toolkit focuses on generating positive relationships between suppliers and buyers, based on openness, trust and transparency which are all necessary to improve working conditions in supply chains.

This toolkit presents a unique opportunity for companies, procurement professionals and suppliers to develop a common understanding on how to advance decent work through purchasing decisions and scale up efforts to improve the life of workers in global supply chains.

  1. The SDGs were agreed by all countries. They define global priorities and aspirations to achieve sustainable development by 2030, and aim to mobilize efforts from all actors around a common set of goals and targets. The SDGs are a call for worldwide action to end poverty and create a life of dignity and opportunity for all, in the respect of our planet’s boundaries. For more information, see the SDG Compass – The Guide for business action on the SDGs

  2. UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises 

  3. These internationally recognized human rights include the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW). 

  4. For more information on purchasing practices and working conditions in global supply chains see the ILO Global Survey