//Case Study

6 steps of workplace cooperation changed company engagement in sustainability and human rights

SKF Latin Trade is based in Bogotá and oversees Colombia, Ecuador, Central America and the Caribbean. The company operates in diverse sectors (mining, oil and gas, Food and beverages, metals, pulp and paper, etc.) where sustainability is an imperative. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, SKF Latin Trade faced the challenge of how to adjust to new ways of working while improving sustainability given market demands and the prevailing global situation.


Getting everyone onboard

After participating in a Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) Sustainable Business Platform, SKF signed on to partner with SWP to enhance workplace cooperation. The first crucial step of the SWP programme is ensuring buy-in. This was achieved through conversations with management allowing for a baseline assessment process, through interviews and surveys conducted using a neutral third party – SWP.  The assessment offered a different strategic view of the company and where to prioritize efforts, and for employees this was an opportunity to highlight challenges and offer their solutions.


Forming a new
Workplace Committee

A workplace committee with representatives from management and employees was established through a transparent and democratic election process. In the process of forming the committee biases of management and employees was challenged as nominees explained why they wanted to be elected. Hence, both parties were given an opportunity to find common ground.


Identify challenges
and action plan

Based on the baseline assessment feedback, which was presented to the whole company, the committee and management team prioritized improvement opportunities in gender equality, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability. 



Training for committee members in change management equipped them to identify gaps in the ongoing and upcoming change process and challenge assumptions, setting the scene for more sustainable change.
SKF in Colombia launched a local Human Rights Platform in September 2021 (aligned to HQ Policy). Human Rights ambassadors were trained strengthening their skills to generate awareness with colleagues, clients, suppliers, and partners regarding human rights, social dialogue and workplace cooperation.
Dialogue and consultation enabled better localization of SKF Care (the global sustainability framework) aligning it to the sustainability priorities of the Colombian context.
Together with SWP - A Women Empowerment Programme (WEP) was launched with initiatives that included raising awareness in the workplace on gender equality by creating male champions; review of policies and practices that impede equality; and training for female employees to give women more opportunities for movement within the company.
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Share Best Practice

SKF Latin Trade is now sharing the dialogue approach in its value chain and ecosystems through a sustainability platform which consists of periodic talks on standards, guidelines and best practices as well as a training component. Human Rights awareness is extended to suppliers, contractors, clients and distributors with conversations to educate and communicate the company’s commitment and due diligence process. SKF is now aiming to go beyond compliance with the expectation of positively influencing the value chain.


3 Learnings

The above measures and experiences have created an enabling environment for dialogue where employees fully engage in conversations. Dialogue and workplace cooperation have changed how procedures are created or adopted at SKF in Colombia as the process is more inclusive. Gender and human rights are now mainstreamed into all initiatives and committee members serve as reference group for corporate projects.


Management buy-in of the process empowered committees to act. This represented moving beyond the typical perception of the risks of employee empowerment towards the value of employees influencing their workplaces.


The workplace committee was fully representative as it included employees working offsite who had, at times, felt left out of discussions. The committee ran a programme “Your committee listens to you” as a systematic way to get regular feedback from all employees.


The programme tools and process provided support for working in change management and a road map for localisation of global policies. The tools created a joint vocabulary for management and employees and levelled the playing field by building capacity of both parties.


Learn more about why social dialogue and sustainbility in Colombia. Why this is important for development.  


World Trade Center 

Klarabergsviadukten 70

111 64 Stockholm



lack of enabling environment for social dialogue at the workplace level, despite the provision of legislative acts that protect and promote workplace cooperation is a reoccuring issue  in Kenya. To implement good policy there must be a fertil ground.

Therefore SWP developed the UP!  project. Together with Swedish companies as an entry point, and with unions i South africa and Kenya. 

In Kenya SWP created the SWP UP! Programme targeting skills development of the union Shop Stewards from 18 companies in the Automotive sector in Kenya during 2021. As a result, the Stewards were able to use their skills to build trust and cooperation with management in new ways to avoid conflicts. 

A second cohort of training, in close cooperation with union AUKMW, takes place in 2022.

The training allows shop stewards to step out of their daily routines and understand their role and the purpose of their union, understand the labour market context, the laws that regulate relationships and the business itself. But on a human level, many shop stewards also highlighted that they feel respected as human beings, and that they have developed the skills to engage with supervisors and management and experience respect in professional relations. The experiences had deeply impressed them and helped to project the vision of dialogue and mutual respect and their own potential as a means to change workplaces.

The intervention of the SWP programme had a direct effect at the workplaces, where shop stewards listed several cases where they had managed to intervene and secure results in dialogue with management, avert crises or find solutions based on opportunities and the communication skills obtained during the SWP training. For the Amalgamated Metal Workers Unions in Kenya, the shop stewards pointed to how the training had enabled them to design their own strategies at the workplace in relation to supervisors and staff, and to achieve many concrete results.

Based on this shop steward upskilling, I feel confident that as a union we now have change ambassadors that will grow the industry, protect, and promote decent work principles for both the employer and the employees represented. And that disputes will be dealt with at the workplace level by though consultative dialogue.

Rose Omamo

General Secretary
Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers