A Moment of Truth

5 actions for children’s rights

10 year-old Rongxuan, from Hubei Province, smiles at the camera while clutching a giant stuffed Pokémon. Around him are candy-coloured playmats and walls decorated with cartoon characters. You can hear the excited chatter from other children as lunch is being prepared. But Rongxuan isn’t at a traditional school, he’s at a factory in Dongguan, China.

Rongxuan is part of a Child Friendly Spaces in Factories programme that the factory established with support from CCR CSR Asia. This programme enables Rongxuan to be reunited with his parents, who work at the factory, during the summer months. His parents are part of the “247 million” – the number of people who have migrated for work in China. And Rongxuan belongs to the “61 million”, the estimated number of children in China who grow up without one or both parents present. Behind these numbers however, are stories far more complex and nuanced, stories that have implications not only for society but for businesses as well.

Society is facing unprecedented challenges

These family stories are beginning to resonate across the globe as companies are putting children’s rights at the heart of their operations and communities – through partnerships and collaborations, investments and policies, programmes and initiatives. Increasingly the corporate sector is acknowledging that children, and their rights, are part of their business. They are understanding that profits and purpose are not mutually exclusive and their growth depends not just on short-term returns but also on long-term societal gains. They understand that in order to be competitive, attract and retain customers, employees and investors, businesses need to behave responsibly, ethically and in line with legal norms and standards.

There is also a realisation that children’s rights are not just about charity and child labour, but about a real commitment to tackling some of the other most pressing issues facing young people today; issues such as access to education, combatting sexual exploitation, online bullying, forced migration, access to clean and safe environments.

Additionally, companies are also under greater scrutiny today due to reporting standards, regulatory relief, and investor and consumer expectations. News headlines share the perils of companies who must deal with the consequences of ignoring the impact of their operations on people and the planet.

Why children’s rights?

Understanding the role that children’s rights plays in your business starts by recognising that children are your stakeholders – they are consumers, family members of employees, future workers and leaders. Supporting and advancing their development, and integrating their rights into your operations and communities, is paramount to the success of not only society – but your business.

5 actions for business

What can you do to promote children’s rights in your operations and communities?

1. Advance children’s rights in your company through principles, codes of conduct and policies. 

Respecting children’s rights in your operations and communities requires that children’s rights are included in a well-articulated statement of your business principles, a strong code of conduct and robust policies. While many companies have a child labour policy, it is important for you to also take a stand for other relevant child-related issues as well, such as how your products affect children or how your operations affect the surrounding community.

2. Listen to children

Young people around the world are often relegated to the side-lines and excluded from having a say in decisions that affect them. For business, young people’s views could inform crucial business functions such as working with suppliers, structuring operations and developing products and services to both meet the needs and respect the rights of children and young people.

3. Initiate a partnership that brings child rights expertise to your organisation

Businesses are generally not experts on how best to tackle children’s rights issues. Even in cases when they are, it is still relevant to partner with organizations that have a deep understanding and expertise within the local context in question. These organizations can include, for example, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or government ministries in the country of operation.

4. Integrate children’s rights into due diligence processes

Child-rights due diligence is a way to identify and prevent negative impacts on children’s rights. This process can give businesses a sense of how their actions affect children all over the world. Many companies still lack reporting mechanisms. Within the Nordic region, for example, 73% have a policy or statement against child labour, but only 17% of companies report on their policy outcomes such as findings relating to child labour in their supply chain.

5. Raise children’s rights to the board level

Children’s rights need to be captured as a material issue and taken on board at the highest level of corporate governance. If not, there is little incentive for senior management to pay attention to it. Hence, if board level management is not asking for action or risk assessments in this area, other parts of the organisation are less likely to address the issue on their own. When children’s rights issues are raised at the board level, they infiltrate a company’s DNA.

Pledging for children’s rights

During the CSR Asia Summit, delegates will be invited to make public, voluntary commitments describing concrete actions they will take to advance children’s rights in their sphere of influence. By signing the pledge and indicating which of the five commitments above your company is prioritising, you are demonstrating that your company is doing just that — safeguarding and advancing children’s rights. This makes you a better employer, a better producer of goods and services, and a better investment. In short, you become a better corporate citizen. As a pledger, you will be joining a group of civic-minded, forward-thinking, change-makers who believe, as you do, that business has a greater role to play for the broader good.

Make your pledge today! https://www.globalchildforum.org/get-involved-2/ 

Understanding the role that children’s rights plays in your business starts by recognising that children are your stakeholders – they are consumers, family members of employees, future workers and leaders. Supporting and advancing their development, and integrating their rights into your operations and communities, is paramount to the success of not only society – but your business.

And when the camera stops filming, Rongxuanis is still smiling.