DOES your company have a breastfeeding in the workplace policy? Do you feel confident that your children are protected from harmful online content? Are you sure that the food products you buy provide the best nutrition for your family? These are just some of the challenges Philippine companies have been addressing to protect and promote children’s rights in their businesses.
Are children’s rights your business? Children’s rights go beyond child labor. “Children under the age of 18 account for almost a third of the world’s population. Businesses, big or small, have an effect on children’s lives, directly or indirectly. Children are affected by business in a variety of ways – as consumers, as members of employees’ families, as future employees themselves and eventual business leaders. They also live in communities and share the environments in which businesses operate,” Unicef Philippines Representative LottaSylwander says.
So why should your company consider children’s rights? It is brand enhancing. It can address stakeholder pressure from NGOs, media, investors or consumers. It responds to government pressure or legislation. It is part of your risk management strategy. It develops skills needed in the future workforce or consumers — to ‘future proof’ your business and provide you with the license to operate. But what if it is also the right thing to do?
Children play an instrumental role in the Philippine economy. According to a report by Save the Children, the Philippines lost 3 percent of GDP due to the impact of child stunting on workforce productivity and education.
Forty percent of the Philippine population consists of children (below 18) and 35.5 percent of them live in poverty. Out-of-school children were at 1.2 million in 2015. A European Commission-funded study noted the incidence of child labor in mining communities at 14.2 percent, with children as young as five years old.
The Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC) – adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 – identifies basic rights of children across four categories: survival (food, life, water, health, sanitation, medical care), development (play, education, cultural activities), protection (violation, abuse, discrimination, conflict, sexual exploitation, abuse), and participation (opinion, views, role in society).
While the CRC is specific in its responsibilities for governments, the role of business in protecting children’s rights could not be ignored. UNICEF, Save the Children and Global Compact developed the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBPs) in 2012.
The CRBPs identify a range of actions business should take, taking into account business’ impact on children in the workplace, marketplace, community and environment. Some of these principles include the following: a) All business should meet their responsibility to respect children’s rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children; b) contribute towards the elimination of child labor; c) provide decent work for young workers, parents and caregivers d) ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilities; e) ensure that products and services are safe; f) use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights; g) respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use; h) respect and support children’s rights in security arrangements; i) help protect children affected by emergencies, and j) reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfill children’s rights.
Business can take concrete steps to respect and support children’s rights. Microsoft has been using technology to find solutions to the challenge of child sexual exploitation online. Adidas has been managing the challenge of child labor in its supply chain and invests significantly in the countries from which it sources its products.
Companies can first adopt a “child’s rights lens”, understand where their activities have the most impact, and determine how each principle is relevant. They can then follow these steps: 1) a policy commitment to respect children’s rights will set the tone in the organization, which includes 2) impact assessments (going out proactively and looking), 3) integration and action (walking the talk), 4) performance tracking (showing what you know and sharing information) and 5) remediation (knowing what actions you would take).
As former UN secretary general Kofi Annan states, “We are not asking corporations to do something different from their normal business; we are asking them to do this normal business differently.”
Benjamin Azada is the managing principal of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Services Philippines Co. Ltd. PwC is working with Unicef to deliver training for businesses to integrate children’s rights into their operations.
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