By: Amaya Gorostiaga, UNICEF
Following the launch of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (the Principles) in March 2012, UNICEF Sweden began working closely with some of Sweden’s largest multinational companies to enhance their knowledge of the frameworks and specific implications of the Principles to their business. These discussions go beyond UNICEF’s traditional engagements with the corporate sector—moving from a philanthropic focus on delivering results for children through UNICEF’s programmatic work to influencing business behavior to respect and support children’s rights through their business practices.
Through these discussions, companies expressed an interest in further dialogue with UNICEF and with peer companies on the challenges and opportunities of implementing the Principles. In response, UNICEF Sweden launched a two-year Corporate Platform, with financial support from the Swedish Postcode Lottery, to engage a wider number of Swedish companies on the implementation of the Principles using the due diligence tools developed by UNICEF. The tools were developed to provide practical guidance for companies to implement appropriate policies; conduct impact assessments; integrate programs and systems based on assessment findings; and monitor and report on children’s rights.
The Platform is comprised of a series of in-person workshops focused on helping companies better understand how to fulfill their responsibility to respect and support children’s rights. The workshops provide a neutral and interactive learning environment through which companies can pose questions and explore specific business impacts in depth. Companies have the opportunity to share and exchange information with their peers and network with child rights specialists with expertise on various child rights issues. Over the two-year Platform period, UNICEF Sweden is hosting up to six workshops that deliver trainings and facilitate hands-on group exercises focused on: 1) the business and human rights landscape; 2) each of the ten Principles and the implications for business; and 3) the due diligence tools.
More than 20 companies are currently participating in the Corporate Platform, each of them representing more than USD 1 billion in annual turnover. All of the companies are considered leaders within their industries and have large and complex supply chains with a wide international presence. No direct competitors are placed in the same workshop in order to facilitate an environment of trust and transparency. Through this arrangement, companies are encouraged to share lessons learned on good and worst practices related to their approach on children’s rights in the workplace, marketplace and the community.
Through the Corporate Platform, UNICEF is building and strengthening long-term relationships with existing and potential corporate partners. This unique interaction with companies is facilitating more strategic discussions focused on children’s issues that are internal to the business. Already, some of the participants have started to incorporate a child rights perspective into their human rights due diligence processes by initiating child rights impact assessments and reviewing existing company policies to integrate relevant child rights components.
Through this initiative, UNICEF, together with business, is aiming to advance the realization of children’s rights across markets, value chains and communities.
For more information, please contact: Ida Margarita Hyllested, Corporate Social Responsibility Specialist, Private Fundraising and Partnerships Division, UNICEF