During the final days of December 2023, Boldr achieved one of its most ambitious goals for that year. David Sudolsky, Founder and CEO, wanted to implement a living wage across our global offices within that timeframe. It was not only a financial strategy but an embodiment of our core values and a testament to our dedication towards corporate social responsibility. This is how we delivered on our promise.
Pioneering Change in the Philippines
Our journey began in the Philippines, where in March 2023, Boldr became the first BPO company to implement a living wage. For those new to the concept, a living wage is about ensuring individuals can afford a decent standard of living, covering essentials like food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, and clothing, along with provision for unexpected events.
This milestone was achieved in the Philippines in collaboration with the IBON Foundation, a local economic think tank. It marked a significant uplift for 9 percent of our Filipino team members, ensuring that their earnings were aligned with the living wage prescribed by the foundation.
In Manila, the average BPO salary was 38.4% lower than the living wage, and the national minimum wage lagged even further behind at 49.8% less. By setting this precedent, we not only enhanced the lives of our team members but also challenged industry norms, highlighting the stark disparity between prevailing wages and what is genuinely needed for a dignified life.
While the exercise in the Philippines taught us a lot about the process of implementing a living wage, it also motivated us to forge ahead with our plans.
Advancing the Movement in South Africa
September saw us extending this commitment to South Africa. This initiative positively impacted 1.4% of our workforce there, in a country where the average BPO salary in Cape Town was 20.23% less than the living wage, and the national minimum wage was a staggering 72.28% lower.
This move was not just about numbers for us. Instead, it’s about the people. Our South African team members could now afford better living conditions, contribute more significantly to their communities, and plan for the future with greater confidence. Unfortunately, this left us with a small window to achieve our goal of implementing a living wage in Mexico as well.
Realizing the Vision in Mexico
Having partnered with B Lab’s Social Standards Unit and the WageIndicator Foundation, we set out to determine the living wage baseline for our team members in Mexico. This was not an easy undertaking, since the team only had a baseline of Cape Town, South Africa to reference and had to cover a lot of ground to understand the dynamic of wages in the country.
Because our team is located in Merida, which is an urban community in the State of Yucatan, the living wage baseline might differ from that of individuals living in the State of Puebla. For example, in the State of Mexico, the average BPO salary was 32.6% less than the prescribed living wage in the Yucatan region, while the national minimum wage was 43.1% less.
To make a data-driven decision around these types of wage discrepancies, we had to take into consideration the demographic of our team members, the cost of living in that local community, the urban labor market, and numerous other factors that would determine a fair living wage baseline. By the end of 2023, we had successfully implemented a living wage in Mexico, impacting 12% of our team there and bringing the total to 100% of our team members in the country earning a living wage.
Implementing a living wage is a voluntary decision, reflecting a company's commitment to the well-being of its people. It's a deliberate action that goes beyond legal compliance to ensure that team members lead dignified lives. This is a crucial step in encouraging other companies in our industry to embrace similar commitments.
This achievement would not have been possible without the guidance of several key individuals and organizations. We extend our deepest gratitude to Sonny Africa, Dr. Ines Meyer, Bernard Gouw, and the various networks that supported us – the B Corp Network, the Global Living Wage Coalition, and the UN Global Compact.
Collectively, across all three regions – the Philippines, South Africa, and Mexico – over a fourth of our global team, amounting to 22.4%, has been positively impacted by this commitment. Our focus now turns to our teams in Canada, as we strive to continue this momentum.
As we celebrate our successes, we recognize that our work is not done. The living wage initiative is just the beginning of a broader movement towards more equitable and sustainable business practices. We are committed to continuing this journey, inspiring change, and setting new standards for what it means to be a socially responsible business.
Our commitment to a living wage is a movement towards redefining success in business. It's about measuring achievement, not just in profit margins but in the positive impact on our team members' lives and, by extension, their communities. We aim to inspire and lead by example, showing that business success and social responsibility can go hand in hand. By sharing our story and the tangible benefits we've witnessed, we hope to encourage other businesses to take this vital step.
In implementing a living wage, we've witnessed the profound impact it has on our team members. It empowers them, boosts morale, and enhances their productivity. When team members don't have to worry about making ends meet, they can focus more on their personal and professional growth, which also contributes to the overall success of our company.
Through our living wage initiative, we've not only changed the lives of our team members but also set a new standard in the BPO industry. We hope our story inspires others to follow suit, leading to a world where the living wage is not the exception but the norm.
Glo Guevarra is the Head of Impact and Content at Boldr and she holds a postgraduate degree in Labor, Activism, and Development from SOAS University of London.