Working with UNICEF

A girl, wearing rubber gloves, make mounds of cakes from cattle dung and straw
© UNICEF/UNI120869/Noorani

UNICEF works with the private sector to assess and address the impact of their supply chain and business practices upon children, and promote programmes that contribute to the elimination of child labour through sustainable solutions to address its root causes. Companies and children interact on a daily basis. In some cases, children can be workers in factories and fields. In other cases, the interactions are more indirect - for example, children might be family members of employees, or community members in neighbourhoods where businesses operate.

Because of these constant interactions, the private sector has enormous power to protect children from harm and to improve their lives. This can be done at many different levels, including the way in which companies operate facilities, develop and market products, provide services, or exert influence on economic and social development. Many businesses have developed a range of measures to address child labour in their supply chains. Such measures include: development of policies, codes of conduct, and contractual agreements; support for capacity building and awareness raising with business partners to prevent and mitigate risks; development of systems for continuous monitoring and corrective action to address incidents; and regular spot checks and auditing of various stages of the supply chain.

Despite these efforts, child labour remains a challenge for many businesses that rely on complex global supply chains and source from areas with significant informal economies. Increasingly, companies are starting to use their influence to go beyond prohibiting the use of child labour by their own suppliers, realizing that eliminating child labour requires addressing root causes, including high levels of unemployment, limited access to free education and inadequate law enforcement.

UNICEF's work on child labour is framed in the Children's Rights and Business Principles, which explore how businesses can respect and support children's rights in the workplace, marketplace and community. The Principles provide a child rights lens to the global standard on the independent responsibility of all businesses to respect human rights, as established by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Each Principle defines actions that businesses can take to fulfil their corporate responsibility to respect children's rights. The Principles also describe how businesses can take the extra step and make a corporate commitment to more broadly support children's rights.

Among the activities that UNICEF carries out in partnership with companies are:

  • Comprehensive child rights impact assessments to map out the impact of business activities on child labour and children's rights - within the factory of farm gates and beyond in affected communities;
  • Development of factory or farm engagement models to engage with supplies and sub-suppliers to promote respect for children's rights and fair labour standards;
  • Support for the development of sector-wide or internal codes of conduct and technical guidance for suppliers and sub-suppliers;
  • Sharing of best practices and know-how to support respect for children's rights.


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