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June 12, 2012
Guidance for Corporate Respect for Children Is Published
    by Robert Kropp

Children are Everyone's Business, a workbook published by UNICEF, guides companies in the integration of children's rights into core business practices.

Today is World Day Against Child Labor, an annual observation launched by the International Labor Organization's (ILO) International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) in 2002.

"Some 5 million children are caught in forced labor, which includes conditions such as commercial sexual exploitation and debt bondage – and this is thought to be an underestimate," ILO states.

Since corporate operations can affect children in ways that include illicit labor but many others as well, managers would do well to commemorate the occasion this year by consulting Children are Everyone's Business: A practical workbook to help companies understand and address their impact on children's rights, a guide published this month by UNICEF to help companies demonstrate their respect and support for children's rights.

"Globally, there has yet to be a concentrated focus on the positive role businesses can have on children, or on the considerable negative impact that business strategy and operations can have on children's lives," the workbook states. "Business also has the power to disregard or even imperil the interests of children, so many of whom find themselves invisible and voiceless."

The legal and ethical framework for the workbook is based on Children's Rights and Business Principles, a draft of which was launched in March of this year. The Principles "are the first comprehensive set of principles to guide companies on the full range of actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights," according to the UN Global Compact.

"The workbook provides guidance to companies on how to minimize or prevent harmful impacts on children as well as methods to enhance their positive impacts in the workplace, marketplace and community," UNICEF stated. "Companies now have a practical framework for understanding and assessing their footprint on children's rights as well as recommendations for making substantive changes in their behavior as it relates to children."

In addition to providing guidance for integrating children's rights into core business practices, the workbook addresses issues associated with the workplace, the marketplace, and the community and environment.

An increasing number of companies are issuing corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports and publicizing their adoption of sustainability measures. To fully realize the goals of sustainability—commonly defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"—companies will need to act today upon their responsibility to children affected by their operations. Children are Everyone's Business provides an important template for companies to do so.


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