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 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 stories of families 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, and 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 sidelines 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 organisations that have a deep understanding and expertise within the local context in question. These organisations can include, for example, non-governmental organisations (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 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 above five commitments 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 at CSR Asia Summit…or do it today!
Meanwhile, back at the Dongguan factory, 10-year old Rongxuan has a lot to say when the video camera starts to film. He shares what it was like to be so far away from his parents for so long. And what it’s like now to be near his parents. He talks excitedly about his friends at the factory’s “Child Friendly Space” programme – and he lights up when he talks about his dreams for the future.
And when the camera stops filming, Rongxuanis still smiling.
Global Child Forum will be premiering the film, “Children’s Voices” – a collaborative video production between Global Child Forum and CCR CSR Asia which gives voice to children from China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Bangladesh who talk about the impacts of businesses on their lives. For a behind-the-scenes look at the filming, please visit the Global Child Forum Instagram account. The film will be launched at the Global Child Forum session at CSR Asia Summit which will also explore the business case for child’s rights and share good company examples of incorporating a child’s rights perspective into company operations.
During the conference, please also visit the Children’s Rights and Atlas booth where representatives from Global Child Forum and UNICEF will showcase this free online due diligence tool to help your company in identifying, prioritising and mitigating children’s risks in your community and environment
To download the Corporate Sector and Children’s Rights in Southeast Asia benchmark report
Visit the Children’s Rights and Business Atlas here
To read more about the Global Child Forum Pledge for Action to Advance Children’s Rights
Read more about Child Friendly Factory Spaces in China: Improving Family Life – How Chinese Factories Help Their Workers, Their Families and Their Business
Read “Corporate Programs for Children’s Rights: Guidance and Best Practice” to learn more about the four building blocks for a successful children’s rights program.
About Global Child Forum
Founded in 2009 by the Swedish Royal Family, Global Child Forum is a leading forum for children’s rights and business dedicated to innovative thinking, knowledge-sharing and networking. Global Child Forum believes in the power and responsibility of business working in partnership with all parts of society, to create a prosperous, sustainable and just society for the world’s children. In addition to our forums, Global Child Forum delivers research perspectives, best practices and risk assessment tools designed to unlock opportunities for business to integrate children’s rights into their operations and communities. The Honorary Chairman of the Global Child Forum is H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf. For more information, please visit: www.globalchildforum.org @GCForum