Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Freight Forwarder and Automotive Logistics Group Values Social Responsibility

Companies Have a Debt to Their Staff Says GEFCO
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE - WORLDWIDE – In the modern world freight and logistics providers have to take account of the factors which can enhance or damage their credibility and the brand they present to the world. Alongside the need to be seen as green comes the necessity of demonstrable fairness to employees, particularly as companies within the cargo sector often have to have a global presence in many countries not known for their harmonious labour relations.

In common with some others in the freight industry international logistics provider and automotive specialist GEFCO devised its own Global Corporate Social Responsibility Agreement which has now been implemented in twenty four subsidiary organisations. When the company presented its results in June last year GEFCO detailed the many actions it has taken globally within the framework of the Agreement. Sixty-three, or 92%, of the sixty nine priority actions scheduled for 2010 were completed and the remainder are continuing into this year. Most actions have fallen into four key categories: Health, safety and working conditions; respect for fundamental human rights; the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equal opportunity; and finally social dialogue.

The agreement was extended to include Tunisia in 2010 and this year saw the inclusion of Latvia and the vital Chinese market. Since signing the Agreement in 2006, GEFCO has carried out over 300 defined actions, including the 63 in 2010 when the Agreement was adapted to include a commitment from GEFCO to demand greater responsibility from its managers in a number of key areas.

These included occupational health, with a particular focus on psychological and social problems such as stress in the workplace and musculoskeletal disorders; the employability of personnel, with a better level of preparation for changing jobs and occupations; and social dialogue, concerning the amount of information employees receive on the company and its environmental policy.

Actions taken are necessarily tailored to suit individual subsidiaries. GEFCO Switzerland held workshops on the prevention of accidents at work identifying around thirty areas for potential improvement. An AIDS campaign featured in the Ukraine, 75% of Italian employees responded to a questionnaire on stress which was led by an action plan to reduce it.

In Spain there was consultation on domestic violence resulting in four employees being trained to assist victims; Argentina has no legal quota of disabled employees so a pilot plan to recruit more within GEFCO was instituted whilst in neighbouring Brazil discriminatory questions were eliminated from recruitment procedures.

Whistleblower procedures, that allow employees to bring to light any practice considered a violation of human rights, have been strengthened. Such a system has been set up in Morocco, while in Germany an employee has been elected and trained to deal with any complaints of harassment or discrimination in the workplace and in France the company is trying to make ergonomic adjustments to give apparently medically unfit people the chance to work.

Although corporate social responsibility is the central focus of the Agreement, environmental commitments, notably in terms of ISO certifications and the collection of energy consumption data, were also added last year with a guide given to all subsidiaries regarding these coupled with opinion surveys and systems to enable suggestions to give employees new ways to make their voices heard.