Demand for ethical and sustainable work practices

In New Zealand and across the world, demand is increasing for businesses to look after the wellbeing of their employees.

Demand and support for ethical and sustainable work practices is increasing at many levels. This includes consumers, procurers, investors, company directors, work brokers and recruiters, and importers, exporters, employees, and labour inspectors. It also involves mainstream and social media, and applies on a national, international and global scale. 

Consumer demand 

More consumers are choosing which businesses to buy from based on how they treat their workers. 

New Zealand 

A 2021 Colmar Brunton survey found New Zealanders want fairer businesses.

  • 59 per cent of respondents wanted their future employer to be socially and environmentally responsible.
  • 73 per cent would stop buying from a company that was irresponsible or unethical. 

Better Futures Report 2020 – Colmar Brunton (external link)

Findings from the New Zealand Consumer Survey in 2020 showed that half of respondents will always, or most of the time, consider purchases based on their knowledge of how the business treats its workers. 

New Zealand Consumer Survey 2020 [PDF, 2.2MB] – MBIE (external link)

Global support

United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

In 2011, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provided guidelines for 'States' ('States' refers to countries recognised by the United Nations, including New Zealand) and companies to prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses in business operations.

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights [PDF, 1.1MB] – United Nations (external link)

OECD Guidelines for Multi-national Enterprises

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Guidelines for Multi-national Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct are an internationally agreed standard for responsible business conduct across several areas, including disclosure, employment and industrial relations, and combating bribery and other forms of corruption.

The New Zealand Government has committed to promote the guidelines and recommends companies adopt the principles and standards they set out.

New Zealand National Contact Point for responsible business conduct – OECD guidelines for multi-national enterprises – MBIE (external link)

United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Sustainable Development goals

In 2015, the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and related Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by United Nations Member States. Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all.

UN launches blueprint towards sustainable development – United Nations (external link)

Modern Slavery legislation

A number of United Nations States have laws to eliminate modern slavery from business and supply chains, including Australia, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands. California also has similar laws.

One example is the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 (the Act) that looks to increase transparency, requiring some corporate and public sector organisations to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and to take actions to address those risks. The Act impacts significantly on New Zealand, with EY (Ernst & Young, a multinational professional services firm) estimating in 2018 that 500 New Zealand businesses would be required to comply with the Act’s disclosure requirements.

Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 – Federal Register of Legislation (external link)

Modern slavery – Ernst and Young (external link)

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Page last revised: 12 January 2023

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