Companies have a duty to stop child labour. When operating abroad, they must do so responsibly, with due care for people, raw materials, the environment, and their surroundings.
Companies are sometimes indirectly involved in child labour without even knowing it. The risks are usually small with direct suppliers, but they may be greater further back in chain. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are internationally agreed guidelines to help businesses eliminate child labour.
According to these, companies should carry out due diligence in their entire supply chain. Core elements of this due diligence involve identifying, preventing and repairing human rights violations in the entire supply chain and actively reporting on these. For example, a mobile phone should not only be produced 'child labour free' in the factory, the gold used for the components must also have been mined and processed without child labour.
We therefore have a simple piece of advice for companies: first investigate if and how your company may be involved in child labour, then take the necessary steps. Do you know for certain that your suppliers do not engage in child labour? Do you have the right procedures in place? Do you have an effective monitoring mechanism? Is there a system for monitoring and dealing with problems? It is important not to give suppliers the feeling that they 'have to' hide risks and problems, but that they will be 'supported' in getting a better understanding of the issues and how to deal with them effectively.
Depending on the answers to these questions, businesses should take action and put in place measures to stop child labour. The 'Action Plan for companies to eliminate child labour in their supply chain' may be of use in this respect.
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