Sustainability is a strategic pillar in IFC’s support for private sector development in emerging markets. From safer working conditions to cleaner water and more effective community engagement, our Sustainability Framework makes real and positive impact on the environment and in the lives of thousands of people in developing countries.
The Performance Standards are an essential element of the framework. They define our clients’ roles and responsibilities in managing their projects in a sustainable way and help identify opportunities to improve business performance.
Performance Standard Two, in Labor and Working Conditions, guides companies to implement fair treatment of workers, secure safe and healthy working conditions, and enable constructive relationships between workers, management, and contractors.
With rising labor standards expectations among consumers, investors, and other stakeholders, good working conditions pay off in recruitment and retention, increased productivity, improved company reputation, and more.
“Businesses are here to serve society as well as their shareholders. If we don’t realize in Albania what society expects of us we cannot sustain our business,” said Maria Alexiou, Corporate Social Responsibility Senior Manager for the Athens-based TITAN Group, an IFC client. “Environmental and social standards are not just nice to have, but essential to the way businesses are perceived.”
In 2008, IFC financed TITAN’s €210 million, state-of-the-art Antea cement plant in a remote part of Albania, also providing sustainability advice. IFC and TITAN worked with a team of Chinese, Greek, and Albanian contractors to devise and implement human resources policies and procedures, labor audits, occupational health and safety monitoring systems, and training programs to boost the skills of local workers.
Alexiou says IFC provided not only standards, “but real implementation support and expertise that added value.” TITAN wanted local workers to take advantage of Antea’s long-term employment opportunities, but saw that few had the right skills. What’s more, there was no place to develop them.
Working with the local government, TITAN set up a vocational training laboratory to certify electricians, engineers, and machine operators. The government now runs the program, which has so far trained 120 workers.
During construction, TITAN employed 1,100 workers, providing safe and healthy conditions. For specialized personnel brought from China by the Beijing-based contractor, accommodations were provided, including Internet access, health services from Chinese doctors and nurses, recreational options like ping pong, meals from all Chinese regions, and individual lockers in all dorm rooms.
Operational since 2010, the plant currently employs 200 workers, and indirectly supports almost twice as many people in transportation, quarry support, security, and catering. “When you are entering a new market it is critical to be committed to these kinds of environmental and social standards,” Alexiou said. “This is something that will differentiate you from others and give you the opportunity to live up to your values.”