A new report released this week claims Canadian retailers, including those selling apparel, are lagging behind their global peers when it comes to the disclosure of decent work metrics in their supply chains.

The research from the Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE) makes the point that institutional investors have a financial and reputational interest in improving the quality of work at retail companies in their portfolios – and that a lack of transparency increases their exposure to risk.

But its report, 'Valuing Decent Work: How Do Canadian Retail Companies Measure Up,' says five of the largest Canadian retail companies – Loblaw Companies, Metro Inc, Empire, Alimentation Couche-Tard and Canadian Tire Corp – lack transparency on their workplace policies and practices.

The assessment compares their efforts with those of seven global retailers: Carrefour SA, Costco Wholesale Corp, Home Depot, Marks & Spencer Plc, Tesco Plc, Walmart Corp and Mercadona.

It found that Canadian retail companies lag in the disclosure of key workplace metrics, including approaches to remuneration and wages, strategies for achieving workplace stability, and efforts to measure and understand how employees impact business performance and contribute value.

Released in the lead up to today's (7 October) World Day for Decent Work, the report also highlights the risk of precarious employment faced by many Canadian retail workers.

"Poor employment practices do not exist exclusively in the supply chains of major consumer product retailers – they are also a common feature of workplaces across Canada," says Shannon Rohan, SHARE's director of responsible investment, who authored the report.

"If investors are to manage these risks, they require clear, comparable information on company practices."

Based on its findings, the report identifies the important role investors can play in seeking improved corporate disclosure of this information through engagement with retail companies in their portfolios.

"Investors recognise that information on how companies value their workers provides important insight into corporate management and its priorities," says Peter Chapman, SHARE's executive director.

"Better disclosure is the starting point for investors to be able to identify those companies that are genuinely committed to decent work practices," he adds.