Introduction«Mexico is a rich country with a lot of poverty»
In 2018, over 126 million people lived in Mexico, generating a gross domestic product of 1 223 billion US dollars. The country belongs to the group of countries with a higher average income per capita and ranks 74th on the human development index (2018). Measured in terms of life expectancy, educational level and standard of living, Mexico is regarded as a country with a high level of development. However, a Gini coefficient of 43.4% (2016) makes it clear that income in Mexico is quite unequally distributed.
Mexico's strong integration into international trade is reflected in its high foreign trade ratio of 80.3% in 2018. In the same year, the country's imports amounted to $503 billion and its exports to $480 billion. In addition, the country is a sought-after destination for foreign direct investment with a stock of around 486 billion US dollars in 2018.
Despite the positive economic development of recent years, Mexico continues to face significant social and environmental challenges. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (2018), Mexico ranked 138 out of 180 countries, making it one of the countries on the American continent where corruption is most widespread.
According to Human Rights Watch, massive human rights violations regularly occur in Mexico. These include allegations of excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions and torture by security forces, whereby systematic and continued impunity of the perpetrators can be observed. Journalists who report on organized crime or abuses in state institutions are attacked, harassed and driven to self-censorship. In 2018, five journalists were killed in connection with their activities, according to Reporters Without Borders, and Mexico ranks 144th out of 180 countries in the press freedom rankings.
According to the UN Environment Statistics Database, 90% of the population’s municipal waste (2006) is collected and 5% thereof is being recycled (2013). 98.3% of the population have access to basic drinking water services (2015), with a certain urban-rural gap (urban 99.5%; rural 93.7%). What is striking, however, is that only a minority of the population have access to safe drinking water sources (42.6%). 71% of the population are connected to the sewage collection system (2010). In 2014, per capita CO2 emissions were 3.9 tonnes, below the global average of 5 tonnes per capita, but above the regional average for Latin America of 3.1 tonnes.
In the following, challenges from the areas of human rights/working conditions, the environment and corruption are presented at individual company level as examples. In addition, examples are given to illustrate how companies in Mexico are trying to implement responsible management practices in these areas.
Human rights«Responsible management must not include copyright»
In Mexico, so-called pseudo trade unions or protective trade unions are a common phenomenon. These conclude contracts with companies called Contratos de Protección (protection contracts for industrial peace). The protection contracts are often favor agreements that hardly exceed the minimum requirements with regard to wages and social benefits and serve to keep independent, democratically constituted trade unions out of the company. Protective trade unions are often backed by individuals who, as private individuals, are the owners of collective agreements and can inherit them. As a rule, protection agreements are concluded without the knowledge and consent of the employees. Employees of the company are represented by the protection union, even if they are not union members. Those who do not wish to be represented by the union automatically lose their jobs. Companies often finance protection unions directly by transferring part of the payroll to the union.
Many international companies arrange a protection agreement with a pseudo-union during the investment phase, even before hiring their first employees. On the other hand, there are also international companies that allow independent, democratically constituted trade unions. In theory, at least, they should do more to promote the interests of employees. In practice, however, this is not always the case, partly due to the lack of competence and inadequate organization of trade unions.
Environment«In the long term, the cheap will be expensive»
The systematic recycling of used products and materials is still relatively uncommon in Mexico. In recent years, various companies have begun to introduce recycling programs to recycle paper, packaging materials or water bottles. To motivate employees to participate in its recycling program and at the same time improve the working environment, a multinational company is holding a series of competitions during the year. In one of these competitions, for example, the team that collects the most plastic bottles wins a meal. The teams must consist of four to five employees from different areas of the company. As a result, employees get involved in recycling while communicating and collaborating across departments. Through activities such as these, employees collect bagged packaging material, which the company then forwards to a charitable organization. This organizations can, for example, produce new handmade bags or other handicrafts from the used material.
Corruption«Corruption is a cancer in Mexico»
Corruption is widespread in Mexico. International companies and organizations have to give money to the postman to deliver the mail reliably and to the garbage men to take the waste with them. Street vendors have to bribe policemen on a daily basis so that they can sell their goods. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the formal sector also face corruption. They need a large number of licenses and permits, the acquisition of which is considered susceptible to corruption. However, SMEs also see themselves at a disadvantage due to the frequent lack of fair competition. There is, for example, the phenomenon of fictitious firms that are only set up to cobble together orders. These companies are only a few days old and receive an order worth several million US dollars, even though they do not have the necessary qualified personnel etc.
Until a few years ago, companies were hardly interested in fighting corruption. They were of the opinion that corruption was a problem for the government to solve. This has changed. Today, various business associations are actively involved in the fight against corruption and private companies finance anti-corruption activities. As a rule, however, companies do not want to publicly expose themselves, as they shy away from confrontation with the government, on which they depend, for example, when awarding public contracts.
In their fight against corruption, parts of the constitutional business community have joined forces with other civil society actors. With the help of the first referendum in Mexico's history, this collective action has led to a tightening of anti-corruption legislation at the federal level.