UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein and the UN Global Compact Network Switzerland and Liechtenstein published the study "Addressing Children's Rights in Business - An Assessment from Switzerland and Liechtenstein". This baseline study examines what knowledge companies have regarding children's rights, how children's rights are considered and embedded in their daily activities and company policies, and what challenges companies face regarding children's rights.
The study coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Children's Rights and Business Principles (CRBP). Based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the CRBP highlight the breadth of potential impacts for businesses on children and children's rights and provide guidance for businesses on how to fulfil their responsibility to respect children's rights.
Challenges for children’s rights in business
Companies see various challenges and opportunities for advancing children’s rights and most of them are related to tackling child labor risks. While companies are aware of child labor risks, interview partners report that insufficient capacity and expertise are key obstacles to effectively prohibiting child labor in value chains.
“The main obstacle to advancing children’s rights in companies is the perceived low relevance of children’s rights to the company.”
The current study highlights the diverse impacts of companies on children and their rights - both in their supply chains and in their own business activities in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is particularly striking that companies are mostly unaware of the breadth of child rights issues that may be relevant to them. Rather, they reduce children's rights in the value chain to the fight against child labour and made no connection to other commitments relevant to children's rights, such as in the environmental sector or family friendliness.
Many companies indicate that they lack the capacities and knowledge to more deeply engage on children’s rights issues. In terms of opportunities, the survey responses suggest that gaining additional expertise through training or collaborations with expert organizations on children’s rights is considered most impactful.
Most companies do not engage specifically with children’s rights but are generally committed to human rights.
Companies’ awareness of children’s rights goes beyond child labor. However, in corporate policies, children’s rights are mostly reduced to child labor in the value chain.
Companies prioritize three children’s rights and business principles: elimination of child labor, product safety, and safety of children on-site and in business facilities. Overall, companies have limited awareness of the full range of children’s rights in business.
Most corporate activities in relation to children are philanthropic in nature. These activities focus mostly on providing for children (e.g., education or healthcare), and less on the protection and participation of children.
Tools and management systems to implement children’s rights in business (e.g., governance, monitoring, remediation) require further development.
Emerging due diligence legislations raise companies’ awareness of children’s rights and create momentum for advancing children's rights in business.
The study was conducted by the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights and the Centre for Children's Rights Studies at the University of Geneva. The results are based on a desk analysis of publicly available documents from 60 companies, an online survey with 54 participating companies and 15 in-depth interviews.
Download the whole report here.