(Possibly) a little less conversation and (definitely) a little more action, please

 by Tytti Kaasinen, Head of Stewardship & Risk Engagement at GES

Our most observant readers might remember that I wrote two previous blog posts about GES’ approach to children’s rights. But perhaps there is a need for another one because looking back at the article in November 2015, I’m a bit sad to notice that we could essentially publish the same text now: so similar is the status of children’s rights today. There continues to be insufficient attention paid to the topic, particularly beyond the subject of child labour, and our research shows that the level of integration in investment decision-making is still modest, to say the least. However, the relevance of children’s rights in relation to business remains equally valid, as does the observation that there are dedicated people who are pushing the issue up investor and corporate agendas, and – needless to say – GES’ commitment to continue working on this topic has stayed true.

The findings from the related asset owner surveys, which GES conducts in cooperation with the Global Child Forum (GCF), have not changed much from year to year. The results do not paint a very encouraging picture and, perhaps most notably, we have major difficulties getting investors to even take part. Given the feedback we have received, the main reason seems to be that most investors do not feel like they have enough to say about their positions on children’s rights, which in itself is a revealing insight. There seems to be a reasonable amount of acknowledgement and awareness, but not much action and application. Having said that, we are extremely grateful for the investors that do take the time to submit their views and we value their openness to considering and discussing how children’s rights fit into their investment processes. It’s encouraging to hear about the child-related efforts undertaken and underway, and the survey responses also help us figure out what kind of support GES could offer to investors who wish to improve the operationalisation of children’s rights risks and opportunities.

To that end, GES has already held a number of webinars and launched Investor Guidance for Children’s Rights Integration in June 2016 – subjects which I have also written about earlier[1]. But here ends the old news review; let’s now turn our sights to the future and how to avoid me having to repeat the same story in a couple of years. For GES’ part, considering the slow progress and the clear need for enhanced children’s rights integration for the benefit of both children and investors, we will revise the above-mentioned guidelines with the view of making them even more useful and actionable for investors. We consider this issue to be very much relevant for responsible investors and invite them to get engaged in the revision process, whereby we will also take other measures to raise awareness, inspire collaboration and advocate practical changes. GES wants to see concrete results in line with the pledge that we have just made in connection to this year’s GCF, namely our commitment to continue promoting the integration of children’s rights – beyond child labour – in the investment community, including at least three concrete undertakings aimed at informing, involving and providing related tools for investors over the next 12 months.

You can also do something to ensure that things have moved forward by the time I next write about this topic. Why not make your own pledge via the GCF platform, for example, and/or join GES’ efforts to further the practical application of children’s rights in investment activities? Give feedback, share experiences, seek solutions to challenges, join forces with others, identify children’s rights risks, impacts and opportunities and do something about them. Figure out what is material and meaningful to your operations and implement it. I would love to hear from you and discuss it further, and what I would love even more is for you to take action.

[1] www.gesinternational.com/2015/11/30/engaging-on-the-little-things-that-will-become-our-future/
www.gesinternational.com/2016/06/30/aiming-to-bridge-the-gap-ges-presents-investor-guidance-for-childrens-rights-integration/

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