Access to adequate housing

This page presents all relevant good practice case studies that showcase how business have addressed the Housing dilemma. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of multi-national companies and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. We also draw on public domain sources, including the UN Global Compact's own published Communications on Progress through which signatories are required to report on their performance against the Ten Principles.

The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions through the Forum.

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) Mattel: Housing issues - Mexico *

Jones Group: Amending Standards for Contractors and Suppliers - Global, Egypt, Jordan

Over a decade ago, the Jones Apparel Group launched its Standards for Contractors and Suppliers. In 2009, the Group included housing issues into its health and safety requirements for all contractors and suppliers. The Group has hired Compliance Specialists in Egypt and Jordan to oversee working conditions in its supply chain and to ensure that housing meets the company Standard. In order to ensure adequate housing for workers, the Compliance Specialists ensure that housing is regularly cleaned and that employees are aware of rules and regulations on safety issues. Workers receive training on safety issues for both the workplace and housing.

Nike: Implementing grievance and remedial mechanisms – Malaysia

In 2008, an Australian television news station alleged that employee dormitories at Hytex, a supplier to Nike, were characterised by overcrowding, unhygienic toilets and poor kitchen facilities. Migrant workers from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam and Myanmar were reported to be found living in the dormitories, located in Malaysia. They allegedly endured other abuses, including the deduction of wages and the withholding of identity papers.

Nike met with factory management to evaluate the allegations and found serious breaches of its code of conduct. The US-based manufacturing company implemented corrective actions which included improving dormitory conditions and transferring migrants to newly completed and inspected apartments. Nike also provided workers the phone number of its local compliance team, enabling them to report any further grievances.

Pentland: Report commissioned on factory dormitories - China

In 2002, apparel and footwear company Pentland commissioned a research report on factory dormitories in South China – in consultation with the Institute of Contemporary Observation, based in Shenzhen. The aim was to address the sleeping arrangements in place for factory workers, assist in the development of ethical codes of conduct, and recommend best practice. One of the key findings of the report was that there were few legislative guidelines regulating factory dormitories, other than buildings legislation (local authority authorisation, architectural plans, building inspections, fire inspection, etc.) and the prohibition of ‘three in one’ buildings where workshops, warehouses and dormitories are housed together. In the Shenzhen Labour Management Ordinance, it was stipulated, for example, that each worker should have a living space of no less than two square meters.

Another issue identified in the report was the changing needs of workers who marry and start families. In order to retain these workers and protect rights, some factories have begun to organise married quarters as well as providing facilities for children and arranging local schooling. Other initiatives including involving workers in dormitory management, and recognising that workers may wish to be more independent (factories might therefore provide them an allowance to rent rooms locally).

BP: Ensuring new housing supports high standards of worker welfare – Brazil

In 2014, BP reported that it had provided improved housing to around 600 construction workers. The initiative by the oil and gas supermajor was undertaken as part of a US$350 million expansion of its sugarcane-to-biofuels mill in the central state of Goias, with construction workers involved in the development of new facilities and infrastructure at the Tropical BioEnergia project.  The site is 16 km away from the nearest town and accommodation options in the nearest settlements are limited. Moreover, the kind of temporary accommodation usually provided to construction workers in Brazil is considered as sub-standard in terms of international best practice.

BP constructed a custom-designed, high-quality temporary housing complex near to the site – which offers 8m2 of dormitory space per worker. The housing complex is also designed to optimise airflow and temperature control, which is considered to be of particular importance given that temperatures in the area can reportedly reach more than 35 degrees Celsius. Other facilities included:

o    Clean water supplies for drinking and washing

o    Sewage treatment facilities

o    A laundry

o    A recreation area – as well as TV rooms, a cafeteria and an outdoor cinema

o    24-hour medical care

The Tropical BioEnergia project is reported to be one of the first operations of its type to be certified under the SA8000 social accountability standard (with certification taking place in 2008).

Shell: Village to house workers and efforts to uphold worker welfare - Qatar

Shell housed approximately 37,000 contractors working on gas-to-liquid plant Pearl GTL project in Pearl village, Qatar. In 2012, ownership of the village was transferred to Ras Laffan Industrial City. To enhance worker welfare, the village is built around a park which hosts a recreational area, outdoor cinema, food stalls, shops, internet cafes and shaded areas to sit. A local volunteer group also regularly organised events such as sports competitions, runs and quiz evenings to provide entertainment for those living in the complex. Catering staff also provided a wide range of dishes to choose from, recognising the ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the workers. Shell also ensured that a network of volunteer ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ were available to the workers to support their wellbeing during long periods of absence from home. During Ramadan, the company also distributed copies of the Koran and invited a group of imams to visit the many Muslim workers and lead them in prayer.

* Taken from: UN Global Compact et al, Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide