Ensuring children’s rights requires businesses to take determined action: children can’t wait

Ensuring children’s rights requires businesses to take determined action: children can’t wait

The Children’s Rights and Business Principles were jointly developed 10 years ago by Save the Children, UNICEF and UN Global Compact. In their 10-year report, the organisations state that awareness of business impacts on children has increased over the last ten years, but implementation of the needed changes is still in the early stages. Leading companies offer great examples of how children’s rights can be embedded into the corporate strategies.

The objective of the global Children’s Rights and Business Principles is to embed children’s rights in business activities and corporate responsibility. For a decade now, these ten principles have guided businesses in how to assess their operations’ impact on children.

Many businesses and industries – but still not all – are taking action to prevent their operations from having harmful effects on children. The identification and prevention of such harmful impacts has not progressed as hoped, and the rate of progress has been slow.

Children should of course be taken into account in the operations and value chains of the businesses, but they should also be given consideration, for example, as customers and employees’ family members. The common principles provide a practical tool that businesses can use to review the realisation of children’s rights in all their operations.

“Awareness of children’s rights has increased among businesses, but the pace at which the principles have been adopted has been slow in relation to the huge global changes currently taking place. In addition to the use of child labour, we need to start looking more broadly at how business activities affect the well-being of children and families in each sector,” says Marja Innanen, Executive Director of UN Global Compact Network Finland.

“The additional challenges posed by the climate crisis, global health threats, the education crisis and digitalisation affect children more than ever – children do not have time to wait for businesses to also start taking their rights seriously,” Innanen adds.

According to the executive summary of the 10-year stocktaking report that explores how the principles have been applied into the practice, companies have started to take children’s rights into account over the last decade. Nevertheless, the mechanisms for systematic implementation are still lacking.

According to the UN’s Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, businesses must by 2030 be giving consideration to children’s rights and the impact on children in all their activities. Many businesses have already seized this opportunity to ensure a more sustainable future for children and young people.

“We at Nokia have clear requirements for working conditions and zero tolerance of direct and indirect child labour in both our own operations and those of our suppliers. We are also proud of our role in bridging the digital divide and thus enabling equal access to better healthcare, education and other opportunities – not only for children, but also for carers, parents and teachers,” says Nokia’s Vice President for Environment, Social and Governance Nicole Robertson.

Businesses can indeed have many positive effects on the lives of children and their families. Nokia is accelerating its efforts through cooperation with UNICEF.

“It is great to see that businesses can play their part in reducing the structural inequalities in society that are reflected in children’s lives,” says Senior Advisor Outi Kauppinen from UNICEF Finland.

Businesses also understand that taking heed of children’s rights is an essential part of socially and environmentally sustainable business conduct.

“Children’s rights must be placed at the heart of business strategy, impacting the whole business from product development right through to ready-to-go services. Ensuring children’s rights is central to how we operate, as children and young people are active users of our services. It is our responsibility to create a safe digital environment in which children can play, be creative and act together,” explains Eija Pitkänen, Sustainability, Ethics and Compliance Officer at Telia.

Telia and Save the Children have already been working together for seven years to promote a better and safer digital world for children.

“By working together with businesses, we learn about the latest technology and are able to communicate about the kinds of threats that children face online. Another key part of this collaboration is our work to teach digital skills to parents and other educators,” says Camilla Ekholm, Partnership Manager for Global Corporates at Save the Children Finland.

The summary of the report is available here: Charting the Course: Embedding children’s rights in responsible business conduct 

Read more about our work to promote children’s rights in the business world