Moving beyond compliance
The reasons why people, communities and businesses behave the way they do are complex. Even well-audited companies can contravene minimum social standards because they focus more on averting liability rather than take up responsibility for their social impact. Instigating change so that people in societies and economies make different choices takes time and a shift in attitudes. In order to foster this type of social change, solutions require more than tick box compliance approaches. Rather, companies must start to consider adaptive processes that consider cultural resistances and motivations of their internal and external partners.
Once a child labour policy is in place and due diligence process assessing of child labour impact and risks have been carried out, businesses can take a number of next steps. Traditional approaches have seen companies engage in child-focused philanthropy and funding of initiatives that aim to improve children’s lives. In such a scenario, businesses are encouraged to ensure that all initiatives funded are related to its operations or commercial remit. Philanthropy in an unconnected sector cannot offset harm done by the company’s own operations and supply chains.
Some businesses go a step further and develop their own social sustainability programmes with child wellbeing as their core focus, often partnering with specialist organisations on the ground. In all cases, businesses are recommended to ensure they have a monitoring and evaluation plan in place that measures the effectiveness and impact (both postive and negative) of its interventions.
Leaders in the corporate sector go steps further, building industry coalitions, and even leveraging governments to upgrade their systems of child education or labour enforcement. These actions recognise that child labour never occurs in a vaccuum. It really takes all actors to work systemically to ensure children are better protected, such as by being in school, growing up in a family with adequate livelihood and being supported by resourced communities. Through these innovative and strategic actions, businesses are increasingly showing a higher level of accountability in working together with communities and governments to reduce child labour risks. In essence, the most forward thinking businesses are transforming the purpose of sustainable business to not only ensure no harm to children, but that children are valued as integral stakeholders.