Corporate Responsibility Towards Children Worsening

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – The Stockholm based Global Child Forum (GCF) non-profit foundation has released the 2023 iteration of its annual benchmark Report.  Produced in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the Global Child Forum Benchmark Report 2023 sheds light on the level of corporate responsibility towards children of 795 companies from across the globe.  While most companies are making slow but steady progress on many sustainability measures, this latest GCF report reveals a troubling overall decline in terms of children’s rights.

    The universe of mainly publicly listed firms under review represents USD 32.6 trillion in revenue across 28 industries and 8 sectors.  They are roughly equally split between Asia, Europe and the Americas, with some representation of Middle Eastern and African companies.  GCF and BCG’s evaluation process examines firms’ policies, reporting and actions relating to children in four impact areas: Governance & Collaboration, Workplace, Marketplace, and Community & Environment.  The information is gleaned from publicly available sources including annual reports and corporate websites.  As well as an overall score and sub-category scores, GCF provide a “roadmap status” to indicate companies’ direction of travel with respect to children’s rights.

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    Food sector and European region top the charts

    The best performing companies mainly come from the Food, Beverage and Personal Care sector, along with several Technology and Telecommunications firms.  Singapore’s Wilmar International, Switzerland’s Nestlé and the Unites Sates’ General Mills make up the Top 3.  The Top 15 companies were found to have near-perfect scores in the Governance and Collaboration impact area, coupled with strong oversight of their value chains.  European companies score well above the global average and are also not subject to the overall decline in standards observed in this report.  Nevertheless, GCF points out that they will need to up their game further as the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) takes effect in 2024.

    Most oil companies are to be found in the lower echelons of the rankings, with the Energy and Utilities sector’s average score falling 14% from its 2022 level.  This is the biggest drop in standards across all sectors in the report.  GCF highlights the behaviour of BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies who despite record profits in 2022 paid out much of these to shareholders rather than investing in cleaner energy.  Bucking the sector trend are Finland’s Neste and Austria’s OMV, both of whom even manage to enter the global Top 15.  GCF also highlights the companies that achieved the most significant year-on-year improvement in overall score.  There are encouraging signs with several companies in China and others in different regions of the developing world making the Top 15 biggest movers.

    The overall picture remains negative, with the average score for all 795 companies falling from 5.1 to 4.9 (on a scale of 1 – 10).  The marketplace impact area was particularly poor.  This includes aspects of marketing and labelling and resulted in a global average score of 2.2.  There is also much room for improvement in terms of implementation, with 87% of companies boasting a child labour policy but less than half of them following up with relevant supply chain audits.  Katarina Mellström, Secretary General of Global Child Forum said: “The collective decline in commitment to children’s well-being is nothing short of alarming and especially as it comes in a time when companies should be surging ahead to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.  The world’s largest corporations bear an immense ethical responsibility to address the situation and raise the bar.”

    Image courtesy of AkshayaPatra Foundation from Pixabay
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