Canadian commercial real estate companies and major commercial tenants have begun addressing persistently poor employment practices – but, according to a new report, there are still many that need to clean up.
The report Cleaning Up, released by the Shareholder Association for Research and Education, evaluates nine commercial real estate companies and five major office property tenants on the presence, quality, and scope of policies addressing contractors’ labour standards.
“We are pleased with the efforts of companies that have established responsible contracting policies,” says Shannon Rohan, SHARE’s Director of Responsible Investment and author of the report. “Since engaging with commercial real estate over the past four years, we have seen several companies begin to incorporate principles of responsible contracting into corporate policies.”
Concerns remain, however, over findings that the majority of companies are still reluctant to adopt policies going beyond the bare minimum of legally mandated labour standards. Largely absent so far from the policies evaluated are commitments to responsible contracting, prevailing or fair wages, and freedom of association.
Deena Ladd of Toronto’s Workers’ Action Centre hopes shareholder interest in precarious labour conditions continues. “People are providing core services yet not even making minimum wage,” she says. “They’re misclassified by employers trying to avoid legal obligations. They don’t have time to file complaints. They are usually women and new Canadians. They don’t have many options. We welcome policies that address these practices but we need to see them have an impact on the ground.”
Rohan adds that there is a business case for oversight. “Property service workers keep spaces clean, safe and well-maintained. This means happy customers, renewed leases, and premium property values.”
“Companies that came out on top understand that responsible contractors deliver higher-quality services: they retain employees, have positive working environments, and avoid labour strife. These companies have begun to signal to potential contractors that high standards for labour will be considered as part of the contract tendering and procurement process.”
SHARE is a Canadian leader in responsible investment services, research and education for institutional investors. www.share.ca