Sunday, 8 February 2015

Children and Business Supply Chains

New Delhi ,January 30, 2015: UNICEF and Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) organized a half day roundtable consultation to initiate conversations on the effect of business supply chains on children’s lives and their rights, and how CRBP and other Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) can be used by businesses and associated stakeholders to address these issues. The consultation, organized in India Habitat Center, saw participation from over 70 representatives across businesses, standards and civil societies over wide-ranging discussions backed by experiences on how businesses can work towards promoting child rights within regional and sectoral contexts.

The event was kicked off by Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault- Country Representative, UNICEF India, who remarked on various child rights challenges faced by India, and how the path-breaking CSR Mandate as part of Companies Act 2013 can play an important role in creating frameworks for child-rights engagement for businesses. Dr. Bimal Arora-CEO, CRB, contextualized the discussion and highlighted the need to increase business awareness about presence of children in supply chains and create a roadmap for businesses to follow to mitigate such issues. Mr. Michael Copping- Corporate Engagement Manager, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Region Office, emphasized the CRBP framework and gave anecdotal evidence of its impact in Regional markets. The first round was capped by Ms. Ruchira Gujral- CSR and Corporate Engagement Officer, UNICEF India, where she emphasized the role of UNICEF in engaging with corporations and academia for formulating long-term solutions for child rights issues. 
This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Mr. Vivek Law–Business Journalist and ex-Editor, Bloomberg TV India, and comprising of Ms. Diya Sharma (Programme Manager, ETP), Ms. Vandana Verma (Programme Director, IKEA Foundation) and Mr. Manoj Bhatt (Country Director, GoodWeave India) touched upon the level of corporate sensitization towards child rights and steps they are taking to incorporate them in their respective value chains. Ms. Diya enumerated how this incorporation is good for businesses by giving anecdotal evidence of yield increment resulting from favorable child rights policies in the tea valleys of Sri Lanka. The floor was then opened to the audience for discussions, where the need for strengthening public institutions, in particular educational ones, was enumerated by several participants. Sensitizing consumers, proliferating worker’s rights, formulating multi-stakeholder partnerships, making supply chains transparent and policy strengthening were some of the other points mooted to champion the cause of child rights by businesses.
Lastly, Dr. Bimal enumerated the way forward and a need for all present to participate in furthering the CRBP ambitions in India. Mr. Viraf Mehta –Convener, Human Rights & Business Resources Group, spoke about the need for businesses to contextualize the overarching UNGC Human Rights Frameworks for child rights activities. Ms. Christine Edier-Chief, Resource Mobilization and Partnerships, UNICEF India, gave a vote of thanks to all speakers and talked about her take-away from the multiple discussions and experience sharing from all present. She concluded by emphasizing the need for companies to take their role in safe-guarding the future of children seriously, and commenting on the utilization of CSR Mandate towards that end in India.

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