22 October 2021

Creation of a network of Ukrainian businesses and consumers who made sustainability their DNA is a milestone achievement of the Svidomo Made project which wrapped up with a final conference in Kyiv on 20-21 October.

The event highlighted that social responsibility becomes a mainstream in Ukraine. A survey* conducted within the project revealed that one in four Ukrainian consumers not only refuse to buy a product from a brand due to its position on social and environmental issues but also do so permanently. According to the findings, 52 per cent of respondents said they believed the most important aspect of corporate social responsibility was the protection of employees’ rights and decent working conditions. One third (33%) indicated environmental friendliness and environmental protection.

The Consciously Made in Ukraine (Svidomo Made) project was implemented from November 2020 to October 2021 by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN Migration Agency, jointly with the Made in Ukraine NGO to boost sustainable production and consumption in Ukraine. The project resulted in developing the Corporate Sustainability Standard for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This guidance provides a mechanism to verify companies’ compliance with six principles of sustainability which include ethical recruitment and decent pay; safe working conditions; abolition of exploitation and child labour; non-discrimination and promotion of diversity at the workplace; transparency of supply chains and protection of environment.

Fifteen Ukrainian businesses volunteered to participate in an assessment conducted by the Svidomo Made experts who visited each enterprise to monitor their adherence to the Standard’s criteria. At the final conference, two businesses, specializing in the production of eco-friendly cleaning items and cosmetics, were awarded the Svidomo Made “quality mark” as recognition of their full compliance with all principles.

“The project showcased how small and medium sustainable enterprises incorporated principles of social and environmental responsibility into their operations. These cases are truly inspiring,” said Anh Nguyen, Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine. “The private sector is an important partner in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact for Migration. Working together, we build commitments to end the exploitation of migrant workers, implement human rights standards that address migrant workers’ vulnerabilities, promote collaboration across sectors and all stakeholders for sustainable positive change.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Ukrainian businesses hard, but also increased the demand for sustainability as consumers gave a preference to local, long-lasting and often reusable products. At the same time, as noted by Andrii Slabinsky, former director of the Office of Small and Medium Business Development (SMEDO) with the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine, the pandemic worsened the situation in the area of employment — when the very survival of businesses was at stake, companies were even more reluctant to formalize contracts with employees: “It is of paramount importance that amendments to the labour legislation are adopted as soon as possible, in regards to forms of employment. This concerns jobs with non-fixed working time, temporary contracts. Formalizing these will allow for businesses to comply with minimum standards which start with having an employment contract.  Afterwards, other components of the Standard can be taken into account,” he said.

“Forced labour is the most common form of exploitation in Ukraine. Our goal was to raise awareness of SMEs about standards of safe and ethical employment. We also aimed at improving the business climate in Ukraine, creating alternatives to irregular migration that drives people to seek a better life, often abroad, which leads to the situation of human trafficking, both outside and inside Ukraine,” highlighted Anna Karelina, coordinator of Consciously Made Project at IOM Ukraine.

Svidomo Made Project was implemented with funding from the IOM Development Fund (IDF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The online platform was created to bring together businesses and consumers and showcase the best examples of responsible lifestyle.

* The survey was conducted in September 2021 through online interviews with 814 respondents in cities with over 100,000 inhabitants aged 25–40. Separately, 209 telephone interviews were organized with enterprises’ CEOs representing micro-, small and medium businesses.