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    The Road to Child-Friendly Tech Is Paved with Good Intentions

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Companies often like to use images of happy children in their marketing campaigns, but how many back up their slogans with concrete action?  Since its inception by the Swedish royal family in 2009, the non-profit Global Child Forum (GCF) has endeavoured to produce analysis and tools to help companies address children’s rights issues in their operations and business environments.  On March 1st, they announced the publication of the results of a new benchmark report focusing on the Technology and Telecommunications (T&T) sector.

    Carried out in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the report aims to shine a light on the state of children’s rights within the T&T sector.  Interestingly, GCF explores multiple perspectives, looking at matters such as child labour, the indirect impact on children of companies’ working practices as well as the positive and negative effects on children as end-users of the actual products or services produced.

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    A pragmatic methodology

    The analysis is based on publicly available information, with companies being scored against a set of 27 indicators relating to the workplace, marketplace and community & environment. GCF look for the presence of relevant policies, implementation mechanisms and companies’ stated reporting and actions on these.  They are not able to evaluate actual compliance or outcomes from these policies, but with coverage of 93 electronics companies, 55 software and services providers and 104 telecommunications firms the report provides a comprehensive set of data that can highlight trends, evidence of progress and the most pressing areas of concern.

    Some stand-out findings

    The report reveals that despite high-level commitments against child labour, few T&T companies go beyond this step by conducting product research and development specifically with children in mind.  Most product development and customer due diligence still focuses on adults, even though the end products and services often end up being experienced by children.  The Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns have helped to bring the matter to the fore as children’s education and socialising moved on-line.  This has compelled many firms to begin paying closer attention to the impact of their output on younger age groups.

    In another example of the “E” in ESG taking precedence, GCF also found that while companies’ policies and programmes relating to resource use and damage to the environment were quite solid, there was little information on the effect of these on local children.  There is clearly work to be done by companies in the sector on making the link between environmental strategies and their impact on local communities’ younger generation.

    Heavy on policy, light on results

    Within the sectors, consumer electronics appear to be making the strongest overall efforts towards children, perhaps because their brands are more in the public’s consciousness.  A couple of companies stand out in deliberately considering children as a distinct stakeholder group from research and development right through to end-user experience.  At the opposite end of the scale, the software and IT services sub-sector trails behind with a low average score across the 27 indicators of 4.3 out of 10.

    GCF come to the overall conclusion that few T&T companies report sufficiently on the actual impact of their policies towards children.  The presence of positive child-focused policies is rewarded in the scoring methodology, but the researchers found scarce evidence of systematic reporting structures in place to verify the outcomes of these policies.  The GCF report does name-check those few forward-thinking firms that are bucking this negative trend.  Let us see if this spurs the laggards on to improve their performance in the hope of sharing some of that positive light.

    Image courtesy of Vidmir Raic from Pixabay
    Richard Tyszkiewicz
    Richard Tyszkiewicz
    Richard has over 30 years’ experience in the international investment industry. He has worked closely with major Nordic investors on consultancy projects, focusing on the evaluation of external asset managers. While doing so, Richard built up a strong practical understanding of the challenges faced by institutional investors seeking to integrate ESG into their portfolios. Richard has an MA degree in Management and Spanish from St Andrews University, and sustainability qualifications from Cambridge University, PRI and the CFA Institute.
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