Blog post

What does it take to be a corporate leader on children's rights?

Global Child Forum

Published: March 23, 2021

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.

Johan Öberg

Managing Director & Senior Partner

Boston Consulting Group

Johan Öberg is a Senior Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group. He leads the global private equity sector and is on the leadership team of The Boston Consulting Group’s Principal Investors & Private Equity practice. Johan has a broad experience from strategy, M&A and transformation projects globally. He holds a BA in business economics from Uppsala University and California State University, and an M.B.A. from INSEAD.

Ready to be ahead of the curve?

This report is directed at investors to be used in your analysis of, and engagement with, companies. The report is also designed to serve companies in the region outlining clear and practical steps to support companies in moving up the ladder to achieve positions of leadership vis-à-vis children’s rights issues.

If you’re looking to improve your score, or to understand how you can make use of the benchmark in your work, please feel free to reach out to me or benchmark@globalchildforum.org.

While we continue coming to terms with the impact of the pandemic on the economy, on our communities, and on our families, it is clear that companies and investors with a strong sense of purpose and a long-term approach to sustainability will be better positioned than others to navigate this crisis and flourish in its aftermath.

Link to the report: The State of Children’s Rights and Business in Southeast Asia 2020

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