Addressing Children’s Rights in Business: An Assessment from Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Companies can affect children’s rights in all stages of their value chains. Children hold various roles in relation to business including as consumers of products (downstream), as beneficiaries of employee programs (midstream), as members of local communities around business operations, and as workers in value chains (mid- or upstream). Despite these multiple intersections between business and children, companies rarely address children’s rights specifically beyond their general commitments to human rights. Typically, children’s rights are exclusively featured in standard contractual clauses for suppliers and in sporadic philanthropic activities.

The study assesses the role that children’s rights currently play for businesses in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In particular, we look at (1) companies’ awareness, (2) their activities, and (3) challenges and opportunities for advancing children’s rights in their value chain.

This study was conducted for UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein and for the UN Global Compact Network Switzerland and Liechtenstein in the context of the 10-year anniversary of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles. The research was based on a collaboration between two centers at the University of Geneva, the GCBHR and the Centre interfacultaire en droits de l’enfant (CIDE). The insights serve as a basis to support businesses on how to address the integration of children’s rights.

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Six Key Insights

  1. Engagement: Most companies do not engage specifically with children’s rights but are generally committed to human rights.

  2. Awareness and policies: 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.

  3. Priorities: Companies prioritize three children’s rights and business principles: 1) elimination of child labor, 2) product safety, and 3) safety of children on-site and in business facilities. Overall, companies have limited awareness of the full range of children’s rights in business.

  4. Philanthropy: 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.

  5. Management: Tools and management systems to implement children’s rights in business (e.g., governance, monitoring, remediation) require further development.

  6. Due diligence legislations: Emerging due diligence legislations raise companies’ awareness of children’s rights and create momentum for advancing children’s rights in business.