//Case Study


Access to finance is key for SME growth. Investors are important in mitigating the social risks by protecting and promote sound labour relations, it gives value chain stability as companies benefit from increased operational efficiency, reduced reputational risks and a healthier and more productive workforce.  

In a partnership between Swedfund and the Victoria Commercial Bank  the SWP method changed the way the bank use workplace cooperation to strengthen customer relations and the sustainablity as . 

The challenge of affordable & sustainable finance

In Kenya, access to affordable finance is a major constraint to the growth of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Accordingly, Sweden’s Development Finance Institution, Swedfund, invested USD$ 5 million in the Kenyan bank, Victoria Commercial Bank (VCB) in 2018. The loan was directed at the bank’s SME clients with the objective of contributing to the development of SMEs in the country and reducing poverty through enhancing sustainable business. 

An important component of the Swedfund investments are to ensure that working conditions and environmental impact are systematically handled in the bank’s activities and loans – aligned with the organisation’s three pillars: impact on society, sustainability, and financial viability.

We are very pleased that through SWP, VCB has been given concrete tools and guidance to work on this topic [workplace cooperation] internally. With the support of SWP, VCB has been able to obtain significantly improved relations and dialogue within the company which positively contributes to a more inclusive workplace with improved internal working conditions, employee satisfaction, and better decision making. The fact that several of VCB’s clients are also interested in participating in the pilot [workplace programme] is a testament to the positive impact the programme has had.
Corinna Hornwall
ESG Manager, Swedfund


In 2021, Victoria Commercial Bank, Swedfund and the Swedish Workplace Programme partnered with VCB to set up its workplace programme. The process with SWP provided VCB with a step-by-step way to engage all levels of the organisation to cooperate around the sustainability of the business, by creating a dynamic and decent work environment. The main tool is the elected workplace committee made up of both management and employees. Established to drive employee engagement and occupational health and safety. 

The benefits of this process inspired VCB to share the same tools and methodology with its SME clients who often faced challenges in accessing loans because of difficulties of fully meeting some of the requirements and standards. SWP has now engaged with two of the bank’s clients to set up workplace programmes.



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


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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