We are excited to be working on the SDG traineeship in conjunction with SBI Formaat and Wissema Group. These organisations are HR consultancies that advise and train Dutch work councils. Despite being different organisations they have teamed up together with us to realise their project. They share a vision for an SDG oriented e-learning tool to present to work councils to advance sustainability within corporations in the Netherlands. Work councils are integral to Dutch labour relations as they provide a level playing field between employers and employees and promote employee participation in the smooth everyday functioning and long term direction of a company. SBI and Wissema wish to include the SDG‘s in the agenda of work councils to foster sustainable participation.
So what is sustainable participation all about?
Sustainability might make most people think about the environment, climate change and our connection to the natural world. However, it is also an important factor in the SDGs in terms of the way organisations function. Sustainability is therefore an idea that is relevant to the social and human world as well as to nature, including in the world of work. In fact, workplace participation is increasingly being recognised as an important way in which companies and organisations can contribute to sustainable development. Specifically, sustainable participation is referred to in SDG 8 of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda which highlights the need to promote “decent job conditions” and “safe and secure working environments for all workers”.
So what does a work council actually do and how does it relate to sustainable participation?
Works councils are a group of employees elected to fulfil a dual purpose: they further the interests of employees but also improve the organisation itself by providing important feedback from a ground up perspective that may otherwise not be heard by directors. We were given a detailed look into the Dutch Works Councils Act from Diedrike from Wissema Group – see screen grab from the session below!
Work councils have a long history in the Netherlands, but they actually tie in with more modern ideas including the ideas of Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable business more broadly. For example, the concept of sustainable participation aligns well with the idea that organisations should be motivated by the ‘three P’s’ profit, people and planet.
We learnt how Works Councils give employees an opportunity to ensure their interests are taken into account by management. The councils are elected and must meet with directors twice a year where they are given an opportunity to raise relevant issues, be consulted and provide feedback to management. On some issues they are given a veto right but on others their advice be ultimately be disregarded. Issues raised must be collective rather than individual, and can include topics such as workplace inclusivity and environmental sustainability.
We look forward to developing our learning module that promotes sustainable participation and contributes to increasing sustainability from SDG 8 and beyond.