Meaningful dialogue in international supply chains

Companies that practice corporate social responsibility take into account the interests and well-being of all their stakeholders. Also the people who directly or indirectly experience the consequences of business activities. For example, employees of suppliers, but also local communities. The SER project 'Meaningful dialogue', made possible by the Goldschmeding Foundation, helps companies to enter into dialogue with these stakeholders.

Fists come together
Photo: Shutterstock / 

Corporate responsibility towards supply chain

The government expects companies to use the OECD Guidelines and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to put international corporate social responsibility into practice. In order to fulfil this responsibility, it is important for companies to listen carefully to the needs of the people who suffer the consequences of their actions. By conducting meaningful dialogue, companies gain more insight into the actions needed to ensure the well-being of all their stakeholders.

Practical support for businesses

To help companies with the practical implementation of meaningful dialogue, the SER has started a new project, made possible by the Goldschmeding Foundation. The aim of the project is to clarify what is meant by the term ‘meaningful dialogue’ and, on that basis, help companies apply it in a productive way. Focussing on the development and refinement of activities that are already part of existing business practices, the practical tools and training materials will allow companies to get started right away, while also immediately considering what is needed to scale up their activities.

Alexandra van Selm, Policy Director at the SER:

"For companies that do business responsibly, co-responsibility for the well-being of stakeholders in their supply chains is a point of departure. Upcoming legislation also encourages companies to do this. Actually entering into dialogue with the people who directly or indirectly suffer the consequences of business activities is of great importance in creating a humane and sustainable economy. With this project, we combine our years of experience with new insights to help companies and stakeholders set up and implement meaningful dialogues in their supply chains."

The project

1. Analysis and concept design:

In the first phase, the knowledge of, and experience with, meaningful dialogue from the OECD Guidelines, case studies and dialogue skills have been systematically analysed. Desk research and stakeholder consultations, a combination of theory and practice, have provided insights on how dialogue is applied in supply chains, and at what point the dialogue was experienced as meaningful. Among other things, we have made use of the insights from the research on ‘Humanizing business' by Prof. Harry Hummels, who has recorded what business operations with a commitment to the well-being of all stakeholders can look like. In addition to that, an international advisory group (link in Dutch) has provided us with their inputs. All this information combined has resulted in the working document on meaningful dialogue.

2. Experimenting in practice

In a couple of different sectors, a select group of companies are putting the concept on meaningful dialogue into practice through four plots:

  • Multi-stakeholder dialogue in the Netherlands about double materiality analysis;
  • Multi-stakeholder dialogue in a production country about labour conditions;
  • Stakeholder dialogues about specific risks with suppliers after online worker consultation
  • Multi-stakeholder dialogue about training programmes on factory level.

3. Knowledge transfer

The final phase is dedicated to knowledge transfer by offering practical tools to companies and scaling-up of their activities. With a practical guide for companies and various knowledge sessions and training courses, we will enable companies to put meaningful dialogue into practice.

Learn More

Do you have a question about this project? Please contact Amy Eaglestone

This project has been made possible by the Goldschmeding Foundation.
Logo Goldschmeding Foundation