Sector associations can play a leading role in reaching the SDGs. They can act as an educator and a convener. AISE (the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products) set out to strengthen the social impact of their members’ business models. We spoke with AISE Director General, Mrs Susanne Zänker, on the making of their Social Responsibility Guidance (SGR) and how CSR Europe carried out a stakeholder consultation that enhanced collaboration and dialogue.
1. What are the main takeaways of AISE’ Social Responsibility Guidance (SGR)?
SZ. Over the last 20 years, the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE) has delivered impactful projects to steer sustainable development in the cleaning and maintenance industry sector.
With this new ‘Social Responsibility Guidance’(SGR), AISE goes one step further in supporting companies by strengthening the social aspect of sustainability in their business models. AISE. is a strong supporter of the EU Strategy on Corporate Social Responsibility, as well as the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which we are using as a framework for our sustainability-related activities. With the Guidance, we wish to continue the industry’s leadership role in driving impact in society. The Guidance includes detailed recommendations, resources, and a self-evaluation tool to support all industry players in managing and implementing a social responsibility programme as part of their overall SDGs.
In this regard, I would like to thank CSR Europe for the support and expertise provided during the whole process, leading to the finalisation and launch of the Guidance.
2. In order to collect feedback on the draft version of your SRG, you carried out a stakeholder consultation with the support of CSR Europe. How helpful was that process?
The purpose of the stakeholder consultation, carried out with the support of CSR Europe, was to ensure that all perspectives were duly considered. Therefore, we collected feedbacks from key players, ranging from consumer and industry associations, to EU regulators, NGOs and trade unions. This approach benefited us in two ways.
Firstly, the stakeholders acted as an initial sounding board. For instance, thanks to their highly constructive feedbacks, we were able to adapt the content to SMEs’ reality and their businesses more efficiently. For instance, we added examples of on-the-ground best practices that can easily be applied.
Secondly, the consultation showed that relevant stakeholders are willing to engage in a further dialogue with us to support the successful implementation of the Guidance.
3. Human rights get a lot of attention. Is that topic still an issue in your sector?
SZ. The vast majority of our products for the European market are manufactured in Europe. Thus, it would seem obvious to focus first on other social responsibility aspects, such as responsible labour practices or fair operation practices. However, during workshops organised with company representatives from our industry network, it was highlighted that business relationships in the supply chain play a very important role in ensuring human rights. For this reason, the Guidance provides support in ensuring cooperation within a company’s value chain. Furthermore, we have established very good relationships with partner associations from the value chain, such as the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic). With its very helpful feedbacks, Cefic offered us a precious contribution to the stakeholder consultation on the Guidance.
4. Small businesses constitute a large part of your industry-sector base. How can your Social Responsibility Guidance help them in a practical way?
SZ. A.I.S.E. endeavours to steer sustainable development throughout the whole industry-sector. Representatives from SMEs have been actively involved in the development of the Guidance. A.I.S.E. has issued this document to support all companies in the industry sector, especially SMEs. They are now able to find all the information they need to implement in their management system the four Social Responsibility (SR) areas: human rights, responsible labour practices, fair operating practices, and community involvement & development. The Guidance is structured in a way that makes it easy for companies to find information on aspects that are most relevant for them. We are convinced that the accompanying self-evaluation tool will be very helpful for this purpose. In addition, the Guidance provides external links to programmes and solutions, which are specifically tailored to SMEs.
CSR Europe released a White Paper ‘Collaboration for impact, Maturity and integration of sustainability in European sector associations’ in 2018. We endeavour to support sector association in their journey towards systemic transformation.
A.I.S.E. is the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products. Based in Brussels, A.I.S.E. has been the voice of the industry to EU regulators for 65 years. Membership consists of 29 national associations across Europe, 18 corporate members and 8 value chain partners. Through this extensive network, A.I.S.E. represents over 900 companies supplying household and professional cleaning products and services across Europe.
The industry is a substantial contributor to the European economy with an annual market value of €35,9 billion, directly employing 95 000 and 360 000 through the value chain. A.I.S.E. has a long history in leading voluntary industry initiatives that focus on sustainable design, manufacturing and consumption, product safety and safe use of products by consumers and professional customers.