90 global companies, including 21 of the world’s 100 largest firms, have responded to investor calls for more consistent and comparable workforce data – a request aimed at improving the quality of jobs worldwide and helping to tackle inequality and poverty.

Coordinated by responsible investment group ShareAction, a coalition of more than 120 investors managing over $13 trillion (£10 trillion) – including the likes of Amundi, AXA IM, Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), M&G Investments, RPMI Railpen, Quantum Advisors, Sunsuper, and UBS Asset Management – asked listed companies to disclose information about how they manage risks and harness opportunities in their direct workforce and supply chains.

Companies shared the data with investors via the annual Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI) survey. The number of disclosing companies more than doubled compared to last year. Adidas, AIA Group, AT&T, Barrick Gold, BHP, H&M, Microsoft, Nestlé, Rolls-Royce, Sainsbury’s, Telstra, and Toyota were among the 90 companies to participate. In total, disclosing companies have a footprint in more than one hundred countries where they employ upwards of 8.3 million people, and have business relationships with more than 1.5 million suppliers.

However, many well-known names failed to engage with the investor request. Apple, BP, China Mobile, Fresnillo, Glencore, Tesco, and Walmart have declined to participate in the WDI for two consecutive years, often citing a confidence in their existing public reporting that is not shared by WDI investor signatories.

The WDI quizzes companies on topics including diversity, wages, health and safety, contracts, worker voice, and procurement practices. Investors are increasingly seeking this type of comparable data in order to engage with the workforce practices of investee companies. The level of interest in these insights is demonstrated by investor support for the WDI having more than doubled since the pilot year. The WDI’s ultimate aim is to improve the quality of jobs in listed companies’ operations and supply chains.

The WDI report reveals that, in general, disclosures lacked detail on risk management processes, with 51% providing no detail on who is involved in the workforce risk management process, how frequently it is carried out, or what areas of the business are covered – potentially a major concern for investors, particularly when identified risks relate to core human rights.

Given systemic challenges like inequality and precarious work, the fact that much of the data lacked detail on how companies manage and protect low paid and supply chain workers warrants further investigation. For example, just 24% of companies said they monitor wage levels for this type of staff, even though they are particularly vulnerable to poor conditions and exploitation.

The report is launched today and tomorrow at the Sedex Conference in London and the ICCR Conference in New York.

Amy Metcalfe, Head of Programmes at ShareAction, says: “There are challenges to disclosing more workforce data. But the leadership shown by 90 companies across 11 sectors demonstrates that these challenges can and should be overcome. Not least because the reporting process provides insights that benefit corporate governance, and because calls from shareholders, civil society, and worker organisations for better data and action to deliver on the promise of decent jobs are only getting louder.”

Minister of State for the Department for International Development, Harriett Baldwin, said: “The significant increase in the number of companies supporting the Workforce Disclosure Initiative demonstrates how governments and businesses around the world are stepping up to ensure everybody can earn a decent, safe and fair wage. The UK government is determined to end modern slavery, workforce exploitation and dangerous conditions in global supply chains and deliver the Global Goals. By working in partnership with companies to tackle these issues UK aid is helping to create inclusive economic growth, quality jobs and lift people out of poverty.”

Matt Christensen, Head of Responsible Investment at AXA Investment Managers, said: “AXA IM is a strong supporter of the WDI and is pleased to see the growing number of reporting companies. We are confident the current void in social metrics will be bridged by the WDI, which we expect will become a reporting standard. As long-term responsible investors with several social-related funds, the data collected against the WDI are used to provide in-depth and complementary information to our social performance and impact assessment. It constitutes, as well, a solid basis for our engagement with companies around social considerations and helps us make processes evolve in the right direction – both at operational and supply-chain levels.”

James Gomme, director of SDGs at World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said: “The WDI is already providing real insights into how to enhance workforce reporting and incentivise best practice. This area of focus is extremely necessary in the context of advancing some of the issues that sit at the heart of the SDG agenda. The WDI has also set out to undertake this work in a highly inclusive and impactful manner which equips both the investment and business communities with practical tools that can help to drive real change.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  • For more information, please contact Beau O’Sullivan at beau.osullivan@shareaction.orgor +44203 475 7859
  • Full analysis report, including the 90 companies that took part: https://shareaction.org/wdi/2018-findings/
  • Please contact Beau for a full list of companies invited to take part.
  • The full list of WDI investor signatories can be found here. As at March 2019 the number of investor signatories is 122 institutions managing $13.5 trillion of assets, compared with 79 institutions and $7.9 trillion AUM in the 2017 pilot year. The signatories are headquartered in 14 countries: UK, Canada, US, Australia, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland and New Zealand.
  • The WDI is delivered in collaboration with international allies SHARE(Canada), RIAA (Australia) and Oxfam.
  • The WDI 2018 survey was open from July to October 2018.
  • The WDI is made possible thanks to UK aid from the UK government, as part of DFID’s Responsible and Transparent Enterprise programme.
  • ShareAction’s vision is a world where ordinary savers and institutional investors work together to ensure our communities and environment are safe and sustainable for all.