What business needs to know about the Children's Rights and Business Principles

The Children’s Rights and Business Atlas is built on the Children’s Rights and Business Principles model, a 10-point checklist that equips businesses with the knowledge they need to respect and support children’s rights.

These days the business of doing business is a complex affair. Companies are expected to be good corporate citizens while delivering shareholder value; be innovative and inspirational, mitigate risks while embracing opportunities. However, what is becoming increasingly clear is that these goals have been proven to be sympathetic to one another. Doing good leads to doing well.

While the notion that companies have a responsibility for the ways in which they carry out their business has been in steady incline for some time, with the release of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in 2012, the notion that businesses should respect and support children’s rights became more crystallized. Indeed, company responsibility to respect and support children’s rights apply to all businesses in everything they do. It should not just be seen as a duty, it can also be an opportunity. This is certainly no small undertaking, and in order to wholly appreciate what respecting and supporting children’s rights entails, it is helpful to place the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in the wider context of business and human rights.

What are the Children’s Rights and Business Principles?

Save the Children, UNICEF and the United Nations Global Compact developed the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in consultation with business, child rights experts, civil society, governments and children and were first mentioned at the Global Child Forum in 2011. The aim was not only to show businesses how they impact on children’s rights, but also to empower children to share how businesses affect them.

The 10 Principles, launched in 2013, provide a comprehensive framework for understanding and addressing the corporate impact on the rights and wellbeing of children. They aim to provide inspiration and serve as a guidepost for all businesses in their direct and indirect interactions with children – with the added value of providing a practical tool to take a comprehensive approach to their interactions with children, and to view children as key stakeholders.

“Sustainability is most fundamentally about making the world a better place for the next generation.  These Principles are therefore at the very heart of sustainability.”

Charlotte Ersbøll, Novo Nordisk

Importantly, the Children’s Rights and Business Principles are based on internationally recognized standards. They do not create new human rights for children, but rather provide an operational framework for businesses to respect children’s existing rights as established under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC has defined the way that governments think about children’s rights for over two decades, and expert guidance has clarified that these rights must be considered in laws, policies and plans about how business is done. The Principles also draw from the International Labour Organization’s Conventions No. 138 on Minimum Age and No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the General Comment No. 16 to the CRC.

The Principles do not create new obligations for businesses: they build on the idea that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Children’s Rights and Business Principles are also aligned with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, which – among other things – call on businesses to respect and support internationally proclaimed human rights. The Principles elaborate on what this voluntary commitment to human rights and labour standards means with regard to children’s rights.

With all of this in mind, the Principles can be best understood among the larger constellation of international human rights and business standards. Together, these standards show how businesses, as well as governments, can work to ensure that all rights of all children are fully realized.

Credit: Children’s Rights and Business Principles/UNICEF

Children's Rights & Business Atlas

Businesses, investors and organisations alike need to understand how their actions impact children’s rights. The Atlas guides companies in assessing their risks.