Lessons from PMO15
Giri says that while legal compliance is desirable, a VPA could still raise new challenges when it comes to implementation. As experience with PMO15 shows, there is potential for small businesses to face unforeseen harm. If the VPA is to address gender inequality and social inclusion, it will be certain to impose more demanding standards. While larger companies would be able to meet such requirements, the smaller ones are likely to struggle.
Manilay Thiphalansy, project officer for RECOFTC’s Voices for Mekong Forests project, says that to mitigate against this risk, the government should provide incentives such as tax breaks for companies, particularly smaller ones, that comply with policies and laws. She also says the government should set up a system to monitor how policies affect workers and businesses, and provide training on workplace safety and on how to produce quality finished products.
“Companies need clear policies ensuring that all new staff are trained and understand occupational health and safety, so they can ask for protective equipment,” says Thiphalansy. “Companies must also be transparent about wages for different types of work. This could motivate women to take on new roles, not just sanding wood and finishing products.”
Safeguarding the small
The fact that PMO15 took many small businesses by surprise highlights the need to inform them about the VPA.
“It is a communication challenge,” says Thiphalansy. “Small businesses need considerable guidance on the law and how to comply with it.”
Giri agrees that, in the context of the VPA, more must be done to inform, engage and protect such companies.
“A policy instrument should be as protective as possible, and as explicit as possible,” she says.
Giri points out that almost 70 percent of enterprises in the Lao timber sector are small or medium-sized companies that have received relatively little attention compared to larger companies.
“I see that they are left out,” she says. “They are the ones facing impacts because of implementation loopholes. How do we bring them into the discussion? I would like to see more actions to connect them with the VPA process.”
This story is produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of RECOFTC and it does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. To find out more about this and other activities under the EU-funded Voices for Mekong Forests, visit the project page.
RECOFTC’s work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)