What we think

Responses to a shifting global workforce

5th September 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

By Heather Browett

As we’ve been supporting corporate partners and NGOs on approaches to dignified work, one thing has struck us – the trajectory of trends which will shape the future global workforce. The sheer scale and scope of these forces mean leadership on inclusive training and improving equitable supply chain practice are prudent investments. A quick look at what’s driving it:

1. Automation of low skilled jobs: Up to 85% of jobs in developing countries could be at risk of automation within the next 20 years. Job losses to automation are likely to displace the lowest skilled and most disadvantaged workers. Supporting training to diversify the skills of workers can minimise unemployment through the transition.

2. Increasing number of homeworkers: It is estimated there are over 300 million homeworkers in developing countries are commonly lacking job security, fair pay and conditions. Transparency is marred as homeworkers can extend sourcing into second and third tiers, yet homeworkers remain ‘invisible’ to the system. Shifting sourcing to salaried employment will support homeworkers to be recognised and encourage fair remuneration and conditions for all in the supply chain.

3. Improvements in employee rights prompts movement towards the lowest cost labour: Improvement in minimum wage and conditions can move production to countries with a lower cost of labour (eg. Africa). We can see the commitment to minimum wage tested globally – whilelow minimum wage requirements increase competitiveness of acountry, they can keep low income workers in poverty. Upskilling existing workers and assessing conditions of new sourcing countries can mitigate.

4. Gender inequality remains in the labour market, most strikingly in emerging counties: Globally, unemployment rates, salaries and conditions are poorer for women, particularly so in emerging, middle-income countries. Creating inclusive policies and supporting women’srepresentation and rights at work is critical.

5. High levels of migration to urban areas: Increasing and rapid migration to urban areas continues to place pressure on infrastructure, services and job creation, particularly in developing countries in the Global South. High levels of competition for fewer salaried jobs is likely to cause higher unemployment and a shift to low-paid homeworker roles. Thinking about the additional pressure on services can offer aleadership opportunity for Corporates on health and wellbeing programmes.
Building a resilient and equitable global workforce is challenging, but as the shape and pace of change accelerates – the opportunity to influence the global workforce has never been greater.

How do you see the global workforce shifting? Share your thoughts with us.

Heather works to create sustainable environmental and social change. She has a particular interest in community-led environmental management, and has experience working with Australian Indigenous communities.


Be prepared for the future of partnership: A discussion with expert collaborators from Mars, Diageo, Oxfam and DfID.

22nd August 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

Future of Partnership

By Rachael Clay, Director, Ethicore

What do experienced collaborators advise we prepare for the future of partnerships? Kate Wylie (Global Sustainability Director at Mars), David Croft (Global Sustainability Development Director at Diageo), Laura Kelly (Head of Business Engagement Hub, DfID) and Alex Lankester (Head of Corporate Partnerships at Oxfam GB) joined me to discuss this on a panel at the Business Fights Poverty Conference in Oxford this July. One thing is for sure – the scale of investment and challenge to achieve the SDGs is such that significant collaboration will be required.

Here are seven snippets of advice from our panel to prepare for the future of partnerships:

  1. Collaboration is complex and requires clear negotiated terms of reference and contracts. For example, The Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (from Mars and Danone) involves contracting between multiple partners (>18), to provide upfront finance and technical support to farmers through a 120m Euro Fund.
  2. Multiple partners need to be bound together in mutual accountability. This requires trust, respect, transparency and a healthy helping of honesty. Our experienced collaborators advise partners to be clear about expectations, what you can and cannot deliver and to ‘out’ the problems.
  3. Bring your biggest and best assets to solve the fundamental challenges. For example, marketing budgets and know-how in business are immense and can positively influence social norms. Oxfam are working with Unilever’s Surf to lighten the load of women’s unpaid care work.
  4. Develop horizontal linkages between supply chains. Business can look at connections between their supply chains to help build sustainability for farmers, avoiding dependence on a single product. David described Diageo’s work with 6.5k smallholder farmers in Ethiopia , developing seed propogation routes in response to fragile livelihoods.
  5. Develop new partners to solve bigger problems. The Farmer Income Lab from Mars was launched to respond to the harsh reality that farmer incomes would need to quadruple to thrive and engage the next generation. This open source approach is a dramatically different route which aims to inspire at scale.
  6. Hold companies to account for their social impact. David calls for a policy environment that supports inclusive growth, joint investments in infrastructure, along with the responsibility to deliver and demonstrate social value. Laura is developing an iterative approach at DfiD’s Business Partnerships Facility to balance this agenda with the push for a Global Britain. The debate will continue about protection of society, public investment as well as corporate interest.
  7. Be positive and transparent about the impact of partnerships. Investors, shareholders and tax payers in partner countries need to see the positive benefits of partnership to maintain momentum for funding and initiatives. Kate Wylie made a plea for a consistent way of measuring social impact to reduce the burden on farmers.

The Business Fights Poverty Conference was held in Oxford on Monday 10 July, 2017.

Rachael Clay set up Ethicore in 2008 to help organisations have a bigger impact through insight, engagement and partnership.  She has over twenty years experience working with business, NGOs and institutions.  Rachael is expert in research, stakeholder engagement, facilitation, strategy and partnership.

6 items for your influencing agenda

21st April 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

By Jane Thurlow

Building influence is critical for organisations with a social or environmental agenda, whether commercial, NGO or institutional. Managing reputations has been Sue Wolstenholme’s (Ashley Public Relations) life’s work and we were lucky enough to hear her thoughts at a recent workshop. We’ve been reflecting after the session on six items for your influencing agenda.

  1. Shape your message: Have something to say and make it relevant. Without it other people will fill the gap with their own interpretation – of the issue you want to communicate – and of you.
  2. Understand who you’re talking to: Identify your influential audiences (they could be decision makers, advisors, funders, journalists or others). Get to know them: their interests and concerns, the things they enjoy and the issues they face. Step into their shoes and see things from their perspective.
  3. Find common ground: Be proactive in building relationships: where do your interests overlap? Build the conversation from here. Show interest and listen as well as talk, evolve your understanding together.
  4. Be strict with your time: Set measurable objectives from the start, in terms of numbers of relationships, in specific areas for particular purposes (with specific people if you can). Set time periods or else it can drift as you busily meet crowds at events and follow them up.
  5. Build the consensus: Bring together ‘coalitions’ of like-minded organisations and individuals and convene the conversation. You can’t do it alone. Amplify and build your message with the voices of those who share your concerns.
  6. Change opinion: By building a shared understanding, and creating the space for dialogue you will build the momentum for change. Aim to shape the debate with others, and build a shared sense of direction among your audiences to influence structural change.

Sue knows influence is all about relationships. Having a clear message is important, but getting to know those you want to bring with you and developing a dialogue is essential to shape the debate and build consensus. Working through the 6 items on your influence agenda provides a targeted approach to influence, built on robust relationships and shared understanding. Time to get talking …

Sue Wolstenholme is MD of Ashley Public Relations Ltd and has been working at a senior level in public relations for over twenty years. She is currently involved in advising on crisis issues for national public and private sector bodies.

Jane Thurlow has over 20 years experience working in research, strategy, innovation and marketing in the commercial and charity sectors.

Citizen science – the new facts on the block?

11th April 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

By Jo Zaremba

In a muddled world of facts and alternative facts, we need a shared search for truth and meaning between publics, companies and governments. Scientists, economists and other professionals are being questioned, along with their evidence based arguments, diverted by the spread of ‘alternative-facts’ [1]. Now, more than ever before, we need to find a way to position objective and unbiased bodies of evidence to support the key solutions and inform the directions and decisions of companies as well as governments[2]. Within this milieu civil society stands out as a critical force to drive the sustainability agenda.

The tools and approaches for gathering evidence exist. The question is how to apply these mechanisms – in a collaborative way that fashions trust, understanding and participation – with a public who are increasingly suspicious of ‘expert’ opinion. Citizen science offers an opportunity – not only for passive data collection by people, but for engagement in its analysis, and in translating this analysis into action.   It also provides the space much needed to create what some believe is the true meaning of ‘shared value’ based on morality and not just a ‘business case’:

Now is the time when those shared values are coming increasingly under threat—in our politics, in our climate, in our communities. (…) With many societal and environmental values under threat, companies will need to make a choice. This can be a transformational moment for the private sector to show how businesses can lead—not just because it’s in their own long-term self-interest, because it’s in the best interest of society. [3]

The call for well informed and substantiated messages will be crucial as will the ability to collect, analyse and present vast and complex data sets to a range of audiences: companies, government and the public [4]. This is a new frontier for civil society and for the private sector, to work with evidence in a truly democratic way, enabling the power of the people, as data collectors and influencers to inform corporate strategy for the benefit of all.

Jo Zaremba is a development professional, specialising in markets analysis and markets based approaches, corporate responsibility, and environmental practices. She is currently Senior Development Manager at Earthwatch Europe.


[1] See for instance Union of Concerned Scientists – http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press-release/EPA-USDA-scientific-integrity#.WKMqYjvyi70.

[2] Anthesis BLOG. The Business Case for Science Based targets. 8 February 2017. http://anthesisgroup.com/business-case-science-based-targets/

[3] Laura Gitman When the Business Case and Shared Value Aren’t Enough, 7 Feb 2017 – https://www.bsr.org/our-insights/blog-view/when-the-business-case-and-shared-value-arent-enough

[4] Anthesis BLOG. The scientific revolution: science-based materiality, and aligning with the SDGs. 08 November 2016 http://anthesisgroup.com/scientific-revolution-science-based-materiality-aligning-sdgs/

Strategy Like you Mean It

8th December 2016 Posted by: Ethicore

By Rachael Clay

slide1“Can you help us develop our strategy for [insert theme here]?” “Sure”, we say, “Is that a piece of paper, or the actual impact you want?”  

Strategy can be about so many things… securing funds, keeping a board happy, demonstrating team worth. Often, the focus is on getting a strategy signed off. But that is just the beginning. If you do ‘strategy like you mean it’, you want to understand what it will take to deliver your goals. You are going to need depth, diffusion and delivery.


A strategy for impact needs to be built on deep insight in the internal as well as the external issues, opportunities, markets, trends and targets. But you also have to…

  1. Think about the plan right from the beginning. Where could the energy, influence, budget, capacity and impact come from?
  2. Understand what it will really take to deliver your objectives. You have to actively listen to your stakeholders and immerse them in your work.
  3. Keep your blockers close. Listen hard to their challenges and respond to them, letting them be part of the solution.


A strategy for impact needs ownership and commitment to the strategy diffused throughout the organisation. You can facilitate diffusion by encouraging the freedom to develop the strategy at all levels:

  1. Co-create the direction with others, both internal and external. New online collaborative tools mean there is no excuse for working in splendid isolation.
  2. Socialise the strategy to inspire and engage all stakeholders, e.g. create moments to immerse teams in the strategy.


The impact is only achieved when the strategy is implemented well.

  1. Capture the energy and commitment for the direction in a plan. Make it smart and deliver some quick wins.
  2. Demand, reward and enable leadership of the strategy with simple, empowering and positive communications.

We all know that a strategy on paper doesn’t make change happen. It is the people who shape it, own it and deliver it that do. So, let’s do strategy like we mean it: develop it with depth, diffuse it and deliver it for impact.

Rachael, Director of Ethicore, established the company in 2008 to help sustainable businesses, influential NGOs and institutions have a better impact through insight, engagement and partnership.