Products using forced labour? No thanks! – Students and HYY Group call for responsible business

05.10.2018

Amanda Pasanen

Human rights are too important to be left to corporate discretion. The structure of the global economy encourages companies to seek profits by underpaying people from developing countries and favouring dangerous working conditions. For this reason, HYY and HYY Group have joined over 70 other organisations, corporate actors and trade unions by participating in the #Ykkösketjuun campaign coordinated by Finnwatch, an organisation promoting corporate accountability. The goal of the campaign is to get the drafting of an act on corporate social responsibility that respects human rights included in Finland’s next government programme.

In HYY Group, a company owned by the Student Union, responsibility has long been a basic principle guiding business activities. HYY Group aims to be a pioneer of responsibility and to actively promote the development of responsible business in Finland. The UniCafe restaurants owned by the Group favour Finnish and certified ingredients and strive to promote a culinary culture that mitigates climate change. UniCafe was the first restaurant chain to include insect-based food as part of its lunches. In addition to this, surplus food from the restaurants is sold after opening hours to decrease food waste. In real estate business, HYY Group strives towards responsibility through its choices of tenants and by using its property investments to develop Helsinki towards becoming the international capital of science and economy.

It is also important to students that the products and services they consume have not used child or forced labour in their production. It should not be the consumer’s responsibility to guess whether the company has acted responsibly or not. Helmi Partanen, an active member of the Development Cooperation Committee, emphasises that students are informed consumers and want to get employed in the future in companies that are global leaders in responsibility. Volunteers of HYY’s Development Cooperation Committee are in charge of the campaign from the students’ side.

Taking part in the #Ykkösketjuun campaign was an easy decision for HYY Group. Antti Kerppola, the Group’s CEO, states that HYY Group wants to be involved in making the entire corporate field in Finland global pioneers who do not make profits at the expense of those in a weaker position.

But what is the act on corporate social responsibility all about? Legislation already in place in France and Switzerland requires human rights due diligence from companies. In practice, this means that companies are required to chart human rights risks and their prevention in their activities. In case a company does not observe due diligence, sanctions are imposed on it. Finland is already committed to the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which defines due diligence. Many Finnish companies already take care of the human rights effects of their activities but, unfortunately, not all companies act this way. An act on corporate social responsibility would ensure that trampling on human rights would no longer allow companies to get competitive advantages.

Read more about the campaign: ykkösketjuun.fi/en/

Sign the petition: https://ykkosketjuun.fi/#home_pledge_section_form

Amanda Pasanen
Member of HYY’s Board in charge of HYY Group, city advocacy work and development cooperation

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