Children have traditionally been discussed in the business world mainly due to their exploitation in sweatshops, but the acknowledgement of the companies’ broader role in safeguarding children’s rights has started to gain ground in recent years. One important catalyst for this was the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, jointly developed by Unicef, UN Global Compact and Save the Children in 2012, which offers a comprehensive set of 10 principles on how companies can positively impact workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights. However, this still remains a relatively neglected area within ESG, and GES considers it important to raise investors’ awareness of the associated risks and opportunities.
GES has for many years engaged in efforts to support children’s rights integration into business and investment activities, and as part of this work we recently hosted a webinar focusing specifically on how the related aspects play out in media and marketing. The Danish Institute for Human Rights, TeliaSonera Group and Nestlé presented a holistic view of their respective approaches as well as sharing concrete examples on how to properly cater to the needs of this stakeholder group, beyond merely avoiding child labour.
Tulika Bansal, Senior Advisor at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, brought the issue of children’s rights closer to the participants of the webinar. She outlined the roots, presented the advantages both for investors and companies, and described in detail the appropriate due diligence steps. These include policy commitment, assessment of children’s rights and their integration into company procedures, reporting or remediation procedures, and aim to serve as a guide for companies on how to deal with threats and opportunities that this issue entails.
Both Anne Larilahti, Vice President responsible for the Sustainability Strategy in TeliaSonera Group, and Hilary Parsons, Senior Manager at Nestlé’s global Public Affairs Department, explained how their companies are in practice involved in supporting children’s rights and pursuing the related business opportunities. Their presentations demonstrated how differently each industry must approach this issue in order to efficiently ensure children’s safety and welfare as well as to identify the most material impacts – both positive and negative.
The speakers were asked how to overcome the challenges in the implementation of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles and how to justify allocating resources to addressing children’s rights if the materiality is not obvious. They underlined that companies need to look at the opportunities not only at the threats, recognise that children are a vital stakeholder group, and try to address the most relevant issues for their brands instead of creating sophisticated commitments that are not useful in practice. Furthermore, it was confirmed that not even responsible investors often raise child-related topics with companies, and the speakers called for more investor attention to this highly business-relevant issue.
GES works on children’s rights by organising a series of webinars and seminars, conducting an annual survey in cooperation with the Global Child Forum, creating guidance documents and launching a thematic engagement project on children’s rights specifically in the field of media and marketing. GES considers this to be an area where companies will be under increasing public scrutiny on one hand, but are also set to benefit from emerging opportunities on the other, and hence it is important for investors to proactively engage with their investees on the matter.
For questions regarding GES’ Children’s Rights in Media and Marketing Engagement please contact:
Tytti Kaasinen, Senior Engagement Manager