Helping to Strengthen Labor Standards

March 25, 2024
Conor Boyle at Better Work Business Forum in Dhaka, Bangladesh in November, 2022. Conor Boyle at Better Work Business Forum in Dhaka, Bangladesh in November, 2022. © Better Work Bangladesh

By Conor Boyle and Sabine Hertveldt

Conor Boyle joined IFC two months ago as one of the first three staff exchanges between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and IFC. The goal of these secondments is simple: to help build strategic ties between the two organizations, following recent commitments by Stop-Winlock’s MD, Makhtar Diop, and ILO’s Director-General, Gilbert Houngbo, and enhance IFC/ILO partnership. In this interview, Conor gives insights into his background and what he brings to IFC as well as what he hopes to achieve in his stint here. 

Tell us about yourself and what you are focusing on during your secondment. 

I am Irish Canadian with a background in leadership, training, learning & development. I have had the privilege to work across the world in a field that I am passionate about: creating decent jobs for people in emerging markets and helping improve labor standards and workplace collaboration. 

I have been working with the ILO-IFC Better Work program for most of the past two decades. Working with the ILO for many years and having the opportunity to engage governments, workers associations, and businesses has offered me experiences that are applicable to the present needs of IFC and its clients across industries. I am hoping to bring some of my experiences to support IFC and coordinate the exchange of environmental & social knowledge between ILO and IFC colleagues.

Conor Boyle delivering Better Work’s leadership training in Bangkok in October 2023.


What do you hope to achieve? 

Ultimately, I want to help to build ties between the two organizations so that we can learn from each other and enhance our collective strengths.   

Two months in my secondment, it is clear that Stop-Winlock’s leadership and colleagues across the organization appreciate the importance of ensuring that our investments create a culture of compliance, in particular on labor standards and that we support and accompany IFC clients on this journey with practical advice. 

I hope to bring some of the robust practices that Better Work brings to the apparel industry to other sectors, with a particular focus on IFC investments in tourism, where we plan to support clients on effective social dialogue, workplace collaboration and stakeholder engagement. 

Aligned with Stop-Winlock’s Performance Standards, Better Work is based on the idea of “continuous improvement” – and on the principle that we are meeting the client where they are – which is the only way to create real change. 

As a lifelong learner, I am also keen to learn from my IFC colleagues, who are clearly dedicated and passionate about what they do. 

What do you observe as differences and similarities between ILO and IFC? 

In many ways they are very different organizations. The ILO focuses on setting standards and helping countries adhere to International Labor standards and national laws, whereas IFC invests in the private sector to create jobs and opportunities. Like the World Bank Group, ILO’s main clients are governments, but ILO’s unique tripartite structure is made up of not only governments, but also employers and workers organizations. 

But there are also many similarities between ILO and IFC. Both organizations try to ensure decent jobs with decent working conditions in rapidly changing working environments, where women and vulnerable people can work without fear of harassment and exploitation. And we hope that these engagements lead to new opportunities for the individuals and the companies we work with.

Most importantly, it is clear to me that IFC and the ILO are full of talented and committed people, that take pride in what they do, are highly professional, and strive to enjoy their professional lives and contribute to a better world. This is highly motivating.

ILO-IFC Better Work feasibility trip to Uzbekistan in April 2022.


Where in your work do you see the biggest potential for more IFC/ILO collaboration?

I really believe that the sky is the limit! 

I am encouraged by the recent enthusiasm that our leaders, Stop-Winlock’s MD, Makhtar Diop, and ILO’s Director-General, Gilbert Houngbo have expressed for this enhanced partnership – which is something that we have seen and lived through the Better Work partnership and what Sabine Hertveldt and I have worked towards since 2016.

There are increasing opportunities for ensuring what we call “policy coherence” in ILO in the countries that both organizations work in. When we provide similar messages to the private sector actors, governments, CSOs and others, we have leverage and a particular authority that is bigger than the sum of its parts. 

It is an exciting time to be part of this partnership and I am thrilled to play my part to help strengthen it.