Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors: Leading multinationals highlight importance of social protection

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ILO (24.10.2017) Representatives of more than a dozen multinational enterprises met in Geneva to highlight the importance of investment in social protection floors for growth in emerging markets.

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Leading multinational companies gathered at the ILO headquarters in Geneva to discuss trends in employee compensation and corporate commitments to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals  (SDG). The firms made it clear that adequate investment in countries’ social protection systems and floors are critical for promoting consumption and sparking growth in emerging markets.

“Social protection investments are a unique opportunity for business growth,” said Deborah Greenfield, the ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy, who opened the third-annual meeting of the Global Business Network (GBN) for Social Protection Floors, a consortium of more than 50 businesses dedicated to social security promotion. “Social protection reduces poverty and increases households’ income. This in turn boosts domestic consumption and unlocks opportunities for new products and services,” Greenfield added.

Participants included L’Oréal, French retail giants Auchan and Carrefour, Chinese automobile manufacturer, Geely, Italian oil and gas group, Eni, and Spanish department store chain El Corte Inglés, along with other corporate members.

Participants focused on opportunities for companies to build social welfare institutions in countries where they operate, supporting employees and other members of the community alike. Companies exchanged information on new efforts to attract and retain talent, such as expanded paternity benefits, and efforts to promote work-life balance.

Participants also stressed the importance of the research initiatives that explore links between income security provided by social protection, competitiveness of enterprises – the so-called “business case for social protection” – and economic growth. They suggested more work was needed to better understand the relationship and to identify clear measures that companies can take to support the development of social protection systems. Participants described several collaborations underway in order to fill key gaps in knowledge.

“The research led by Sanya University will significantly contribute to knowledge development on social protection and business performance. It is crucial to bridge the existing gap in reliable data on the relationship between corporate social security schemes and talent retention,” said Zoe Che, Vice-President of Sanya University in China, part of the Geely Group. “Ultimately, a strong business case for social protection will promote more inclusive development.”

The ILO, a tripartite institution representing governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations, supports the development of national social protection systems in countries together with support from the private sector. The GBN is part of the ILO’s Flagship Programme on Building Social Protection Floors for All , which aims to establish at least basic income guarantees and essential health care for citizens and residents. Old-age pensions, unemployment and work injury protection, as well as maternity and other family benefits are among the benefit areas promoted by the programme. Begun in 2016, the Flagship Programme seeks to cover 400 million additional individuals in target countries with such benefits before the year 2030, when the SDGs are set to be achieved.

The UN has repeatedly called for a broad partnership, including the private sector, in order to achieve the goals, which prioritize social protection for the eradication of poverty and reduction of economic inequalities. GBN members appeared ready to deepen their engagement to achieve the greater social and economic development objectives laid out in the SDGs.

“There is no social progress without economic growth,” Bertrand de Senneville, Global Vice President of Human Resources at L’Oréal, said during the meeting, “and no economic growth without social progress.”