By Rosie Mackenzie, Company Engagement Manager

2018 saw the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (or ‘WDI’) stepping up the pace after our successful pilot. I’m happy to say that during the second half of the year we had exchanges with over 240 companies headquartered in 23 countries. And more than that, at some of the world’s biggest and most successful companies, we found there is an abundance of goodwill and enthusiasm amongst the individuals we speak to for ensuring they are properly measuring and monitoring and, ultimately – and quite rightly – caring for their workforce.

It is perhaps also not surprising that corporate attention has risen in line with the weight of investors backing the WDI: the signatory group now stands at 120 investment institutions in more than a dozen countries, collectively representing more than $13 trillion of assets under management.

As we discover significantly more interest in the WDI each year, the problem we know companies are facing is how to go about collecting appropriate and accurate data and there are consistent themes to some of the feedback we receive. Over the past two years, we’ve heard from companies in several different sectors that because the WDI survey asks such a breadth of comprehensive questions, they’ve found that taking part has been a useful tool in helping them establish and improve internal dialogue on workforce management and human rights.

Having engaged with over 240 companies on their workforce data, the move towards a common consensus on the necessary metrics for this field of good work and human rights will accelerate considerably.

In many organisations, the Human Resources and the Procurement teams say they are discussing these matters together and looking at them holistically for the first time. As these professionals from different backgrounds, with different expertise and different priorities put their heads together to gather the data required, the move towards a common consensus on the necessary metrics for this field of good work and human rights will accelerate considerably.

To help facilitate this transition, we have produced basic but insightful ‘scorecards’ for companies that participated in WDI 2018, helping them and our investor signatories to understand the level of completeness of their response compared to peers. We are currently in the process of speaking to as many responding companies as possible to discuss their scorecard with them, as well as their experience of taking part in the WDI; we want to ensure that all opinions are heard and incorporated where possible into the next reporting cycle.

The scorecards aren’t a public resource at this stage but are a crucial part of the process of developing the WDI so that it is a truly useful exercise for companies and investors, one which translates into a better understanding of workforce challenges and good practice, and ultimately into improvements in the working lives of people all over the world.

Scoring companies will help everyone understand workforce challenges and good practice, and ultimately how to improve the working lives of people all over the world.

Beyond that, we’re also busy analysing the data ahead of publicising the WDI 2018 findings in March, which will provide an insight into how companies across all 11 sectors invited to participate in the WDI are approaching the measurement, reporting and improvement of workforce policies, practices and outcomes.

A couple of common questions we’re asked by companies is who will be able to view their responses and how it will be used. Very often they are choosing to keep their data private – that is, so that only signatory investors and the WDI’s partners can access it. Whilst it may be understandable for companies to be nervous about opening themselves up to closer scrutiny, investors are increasingly expecting and requesting greater transparency from corporations. And so are the customers and workers that companies rely on for success.

Those companies taking the pioneering step of participating in the WDI at an early stage, and especially of making their workforce data public, should be acknowledged for being ahead of their peers when it comes to demonstrating how they value their workforce. Such leadership is essential. For there to be real progress towards a more equitable and sustainable way of doing business, big corporations need to be more transparent and work collaboratively to address challenges and drive up standards in their inextricably linked supply chains.

Thanks Rosie! To learn more about the WDI, click here