The manager of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has co-authored a report on the rights of children in the garment and footwear industries, and a guide for companies on how to uphold them, in partnership with UN agency UNICEF.
Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), said the guidance was intended for use by garment companies who would like to integrate child rights into their sourcing policies and production practices.
Carine Smith Ihenacho, chief corporate governance officer at NBIM, said: “Children must be at the heart of companies’ sustainability efforts as they are among the most vulnerable members of society and the basis for future prosperity.”
UNICEF said it estimated that more than 100m children were affected in the garment and footwear supply chain globally, not only as workers but also as children of working parents, and community members near farms and factories.
Child labour was a critical concern, it said, but children were also impacted by weak maternity protection for working mothers, for example and by the absence of childcare and breastfeeding support in factories.
The manager of the NOK10.3trn (€977bn) sovereign wealth fund said the new tool contained metrics companies could use to monitor and report on child rights in their own processes, and on the outcomes of their actions at the factory level.
It said the guide was the product of a two-year partnership with UNICEF, during which time the two had been working to examine and raise awareness about the clothing sector’s impact on children’s rights and ways in which companies could address this.
Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, deputy executive director at UNICEF, said: “As the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic threaten the livelihoods of millions of workers in global supply chains, children’s rights must be at the heart of business action.”
NBIM said the guidance tool outlines concrete steps firms could take to improve their impact on children, including integrating child rights into their policies and management systems; strengthening supplier capacity to address child rights and root causes; supporting governments; and advocating for children’s rights.