Global Child Forum, a foundation established by the Swedish Royal Family to promote children’s rights, has just announced the results of its 2019 global benchmark study. As part of the Boston Consulting Group team partnering with the Stockholm-based non-profit to conduct the study, the findings have been eye-opening for me. Companies around the world are making some progress in protecting children—but not nearly enough.
The imperative to accelerate the pace of progress amid rising risks to child safety and protection globally will only grow more urgent. There is, of course, the moral issue of ensuring that companies protect the most vulnerable members of the population across their business value chain. But there is a more pragmatic reason to give this issue increased attention: the rapid growth in sustainable investing which factors company performance in areas such as children’s rights into investment decisions.
Some Improvement—And Some Troubling Gaps
The study, titled The State of Children’s Rights and Business: From Promise to Practice, assessed nearly 700 of the world’s largest companies, and how they are safeguarding children’s rights as part of their business value chain. Among the key findings:
In general our work revealed that companies continue to focus their efforts primarily around child labor. But while that is important, it isn’t sufficient. For one thing, companies often fail to adequately monitor their full supply chain when scrutiny of suppliers two or three steps removed from their own manufacturing operations would reveal problems. In addition, the impact on children from a company’s business extends far beyond labor practices, including a company’s environmental and social track record.
The Role of Investors
As I have seen firsthand in my work with private equity firms, that track record is getting more attention now than in the past. Assets managed under sustainable investing approaches, including strategies that integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance into investment decisions, hit $30.7 trillion in 2018—up 34% in just two years. That growth is fueled in part by the mounting evidence that companies that lead in ESG performance generate better returns for shareholders.
Not surprisingly, children’s rights and a company’s overall ESG performance are inextricably linked. A company’s environmental record, for example, can have a significant impact on children’s health. And the degree to which a company supports and uplifts the communities in which it operates will have a major influence on the lives of children in those communities.
That’s why both companies and investors need to pay more attention to the rights of children around the world. If they don’t, I have no doubt they will ultimately pay a price in the market for that failure.
Johan Öberg is a Senior Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group. He leads the global private equity sector and is on the leadership team of The Boston Consulting Group’s Principal Investors & Private Equity practice. Johan has a broad experience from strategy, M&A and transformation projects globally. He holds a BA in business economics from Uppsala University and California State University, and an M.B.A. from INSEAD.
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In an effort to provide insights and guidance on how businesses protect – or fall short in protecting – children’s rights in South Africa, this report draws on one of Global Child Forum’s essential research products ‘The corporate sector and children’s rights benchmark’. More specifically, insights are provided across three areas where the corporate sector impacts children’s rights: The Workplace, The Marketplace, The Community and the Environment. In 2015, Global Child Forum, in partnership with Boston Consulting Group, published a benchmark study of the 271 largest companies in the region. This report is a follow-up to that study. An updated benchmark analysis has been conducted on 20 of the region’s largest companies.
Businesses, investors and organisations alike need to understand how their actions impact children’s rights across the globe. The Children’s Rights and Business Atlas, developed with UNICEF, is the first comprehensive resource to guide companies in assessing risks to children within industry sectors and regions of operation.
This year’s Global Child Forum welcomed heads of state and heads of companies, leaders from civil society and learners from across South America and beyond. All came together with the goal of providing the region’s children with the best possible path to productive adulthood. All came together with the belief that the business sector is key to achieving that goal. Nearly 400 delegates gathered in the FIESP building on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo, its soaring modernist architecture a fitting backdrop for tackling a far-reaching children’s rights agenda. Read the Forum report — full of inspiration, ideas for action and case stories.
Children’s rights are an essential investment in a sustainable future. Safeguarding these rights helps build the strong, well-educated communities that are vital to creating stable, inclusive and productive societies. The private sector impacts children’s lives both directly and indirectly, and all companies in all industries – global, regional or local – can make a difference. Business activity influences the daily life of children in a number of ways, from impoverished communities where children are held back from getting an education because they need to support the family with their income, to the marketplace where children react to marketing messages and learn about the world via the many products surrounding them. Companies that want to take part in the movement pushing sustainable development forward, creating the world that we together have formulated in the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, need to safeguard, empower and consider the opinions of those we should be creating that world together with. Considering children’s rights holds the possibility of enriching your business and easing your way into the challenges of the future. Read these statements from companies and businesses that have incorporated a child rights approach into their work.
Save the Children
In an effort to provide insights and guidance on how businesses protect – or fall short in protecting – children’s rights in the Southeast Asia region, this report makes use of two essential Global Child Forum research products: The Children Rights and Business Atlas and The corporate sector and children’s rights benchmark. More specifically, insights are provided across three areas where the corporate sector impacts children’s rights: The Workplace, The Marketplace, The Community and the Environment. Throughout this report, data from the Atlas highlights contextual factors that shape how companies can and should respond to children’s rights. This information is contrasted with the results of the Benchmark scoring for the 20 largest companies in Southeast Asia. A gap analysis provides recommendations for company actions that address risks and create positive impact on children’s rights in the region.
On Wednesday, April 11, the 10th Global Child Forum 2018 was held at the Stockholm Royal Palace. Over 300 participants from around the world gathered to discuss child rights issues. Participants represented global companies, financial institutions, civil society, the UN, academia and government.
“Business impacts children. And therefore, we must let children impact business.” These words from H.M King Carl XVI Gustaf, during his speech at the recent Global Child Forum in April 2018, underline the importance of understanding children’s rights - especially recognizing the unique position investors and companies have to protect and advance these rights.
Norsk Hydro entered Brazil in 2011 with a long history of fostering healthy communities that grew up around its operations in Norway. The company therefore had no small sense of the responsibilities of being an actor with an enormous impact on the lives of its workers and neighbours. The difficult history and operating environment of the Amazon region, however, challenge Hydro’s commitment to go “beyond compliance” to make a positive difference – particularly with regard to vulnerable populations, including children. This case study is no. 3 in a series of company reflections for Global Child Forum on how companies address children’s rights and child-related issues. All our reports and case studies can be found in our Knowledge Center.
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca focuses its global community investment on the pressing challenge of preventing non-communicable diseases. They do this by targeting adolescents health and major risk behaviours such as tobacco and alcohol use and unhealthy eating through the AstraZeneca Youth Health Programme. A unique feature of the programme is that combines measures for behavioural change with research and advocacy. “The youth of today are going to be the main drivers of economic development for evolving nations. One way to help them grow up healthy is to empower them with knowledge about making healthy choices.” Helen-Marie Seibel, Director, Global Community Investment, AstraZeneca In this Deep Dive, we delve deeper into the Youth Health Programme in order to understand its background story and key features. The insights are based on interviews with company representatives and publicly available resources. As part of our research on corporate children’s rights programs, we have also developed a guide for companies: “Corporate Children’s Rights Programs – Guidance and Best Practice”.
Global Child Forum and GES International have surveyed asset owner signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in 2014, 2015, and 2017, in order to understand perspectives of the investor community on integrating children’s rights issues into decision-making processes. We are now taking stock of the knowledge generated from these surveys and from recent in-depth interviews with nine investors. The main findings of our work are presented in this report. The purpose of this report is twofold: to provide information and inspiration to investors by highlighting the relevance of children’s rights, and to supply concrete tools and frameworks for applying related perspectives. We also present two company examples which serve to demonstrate how investors can work with children’s rights on a practical level.
During 2017, Global Child Forum initiated a project aiming at demonstrating how investments in education leads to positive pay-offs not only for the community but also for business. Rightshouse was engaged to carry out the mapping exercise and deliver a database/spreadsheet categorizing collected data – and a report presenting the main findings of the assignment. The report points out that businesses recognize the central importance of education both for development in society as a whole and for the business sector specifically. But while it is well documented that the education sector globally suffers from a significant lack of resources, contributions from the private sector are limited. All findings of the mapping exercise, together with business cases, are presented in the report.
Under the theme “Mobility & Connectivity: Children’s Rights and Sustainable Business”, Forum attendees were inspired through plenary panels and solution-driven ActionLabs sessions. The Forum highlighted opportunities to advance children’s rights presented by fast technological progress, a young, growing workforce and the expanding travel and tourism in the region and explored how stakeholders could ensure that children’s rights are respected and fulfilled. Read the report!
Swedbank Robur is one of the largest asset managers in Scandinavia and the Baltic region and has worked with Save the Children since 2009. As an owner and investor Swedbank Robur can influence companies to take child rights into account. Anna Nilsson is Head of Sustainability at Swedbank Robur. Children’s rights and business videos
Save the Children Sweden ...
This report presents the results from a survey on how 280 institutional investors integrate children’s rights in their responsible investment policies and practices. The survey is based on a questionnaire developed by GES and Global Child Forum regarding investor expectations and achievements related to children’s rights. We invited 280 asset owner signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) worldwide to participate in the survey. Thirty-one investors responded. The Investor Perspectives on Children’s Rights 2015 is a follow-up of the inaugural survey presented and discussed at the Global Child Forum in Stockholm in April 2014.
Global Child Forum is an independent, global multi-stakeholder platform for informed dialogue and thought leadership on how to advance children’s rights in support of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This report is part of Global Child Forum’s objective to initiate and share research, raise crucial global awareness, new thinking and cross-sector dialogue regarding children’s rights. 195 investors in Europe and USA were invited to participate in the survey; only 22 responded. Some of the main findings included: Investors typically focus primarily on child labour and less on other children’s rights issues. 32 of the 195 investors have a publicly available responsible investor policy that includes a reference to children’s rights Of the 22 investors who responded, 21 replied that children’s rights have a potentially material impact to their investments.
Global Child Forum
This study is based on a questionnaire and publicly available information. The questionnaire was developed by Global Child Forum and GES was used as a framework when assessing investor’s public information. The targeted organisations were 195 investors in Europe and USA, 22 investors responded.
A guidance for business on integrating children’s rights considerations into company policies and processes, developed by UNICEF and Save the Children. This tool for companies recommends ways for all businesses to incorporate children’s rights into their policies and codes of conduct, based on the Children’s Rights and Business Principles. It reaches beyond the traditional focus areas of child labour and philanthropy and outlines the child rights elements that are relevant to all companies. At the same time, it is intended to be flexible and adaptable, and includes elements that companies can adopt and integrate as appropriate, based on their biggest areas of risk and opportunity. The tool comprises three main parts: The first part gives a detailed introduction to the tool and background on the Children’s Rights and Business Principles; Part 2 includes information on how to get started and describes how a commitment to respect and support children’s rights can be integrated within company statements of business principles and codes of conduct; Part 3 outlines the elements that all companies should consider integrating into their human rights and other policies, under Principle 1. It also includes policy recommendations to be considered based on a company’s particular direct and indirect impacts, under Principles 2–10. The information under Principle 4 summarizes when and how companies should develop a stand-alone child protection policy or code of conduct.
UNICEF, United Nations Children's Fund
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