Johan Öberg, Managing Director and Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group, weighs in on what it takes to be a corporate leader on children’s rights as part of the launch of Global Child Forum’s benchmark – “The State of Children’s Rights and Business in Southeast Asia – 2020
Since 2014, Global Child Forum and Boston Consulting Group in Stockholm have screened and scored over 2,600 companies, creating the largest benchmark on companies implementation of childrens rights globally.
This week marks the launch of a new report that we are proud of having contributed to; The State of Children’s Rights and Business in Southeast Asia 2020, making up a regional deep dive complementing the large Global Benchmark report launched in 2019. After having examined thousands of companies in eight sectors across a wide range of children’s rights indicators, stories begin to emerge.
Southeast Asia has made headway, but there is much room and great need for improvement
The region has improved since our last benchmark in 2016. Along with many other parts of the world, Southeast Asia has made significant strides as more and more companies bring children’s rights to the board level. But although the region has made headway, there is much room and great need for improvement.
A large number of companies, especially in the Apparel & Retail sector, have a lower than global average score in the benchmark. Half of the companies in the region dont have a child labor policy. This fundamental requirement needs to be urgently addressed by all companies.
With the “Year of the Elimination of Child Labor” upon us, as mandated by the UN General Assembly, there is no better time than now to close the child labor policy gap in the region. There is of course concern that the global pandemic risks undermining the regions positive strides or, worse, reversing progress that has been made over the past decade, especially with regards to child labor.
Investors view a companys adherence to childrens rights issues as a proxy for a companys overall resilience
Today large investors are incorporating issues such as human rights as a key component of their investment approach, driven by an investment conviction that an understanding of sustainability issues is essential to improving long-term financial outcomes. Increasingly, investors are using a company’s adherence to children’s rights issues as a proxy for a companys overall resilience, excellence and leadership position, much like they look to issues around climate and the environment.
Companies need to move children’s rights issues from the nice to have to the need to have list of priorities for the sake of children and company survival.
So, what does it take to be a corporate leader on childrens rights?
Global Child Forum has identified four main areas that characterize leading companies that strategically manage their impact on children:
Factor #1 – Go from Policy to Practice. Leading companies report transparently on risks or instances of child labour and have involvement from the top, i.e., the board prioritizes children’s rights issues.
Factor #2 – Understand Childrens Rights Beyond Child Labour. Leading companies understand that childrens rights go beyond child labour (and charity).
Factor #3 – Know Your Impact and Manage Your Risk. Leading companies know what their main risks are and address them credibly.
Factor #4 – Join Forces. Leading companies collaborate strategically with others.