SAVE THE CHILDREN UK: Why Corporate Social Responsibility is failing children

[26 March 2007] - Companies who are not adhering to corporate social responsibility codes are failing millions of children, says a new report.

The report, Why Corporate Social Responsibility is Failing Children, by Save the Children and The Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition, reviews three voluntary codes for companies and reveals that all three have been violated by leading companies. The report concludes that voluntary initiatives alone are wholly inadequate as a means of improving the lives of children. This is because they fail to be enforced and because they attract only a small sub-section of companies in each sector.

The codes outlined in the report are the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, the Extractive Industries Transparencies Initiative (EITI) and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)

In relation to these three codes, the report reveals:

· The Breastmilk Code: 25 years on from the adoption of the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, almost 1.4 million children are dying every year because they haven’t been adequately breastfed. Aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes is still common throughout the world and there is substantial evidence linking corporate promotional activities to reduced breast feeding worldwide.

· Extractive Industries Transparencies Initiative (EITI): The EITI was introduced in 2002 to improve transparency in the oil, gas and mining sectors. Funds from these sectors are often used to fuel conflict and exacerbate poverty resulting in damaging impacts on children’s lives. Five years on, almost none of the relevant companies are fully transparent about their payments to repressive regimes. This has been linked to the resource curse and the continued death and displacement of over 20 million people.

· ETI: The ETI is supposed to protect the rights of workers. However an evaluation has shown that adherence to the code has been slow and that key aspects of the code, such as paying a living wage, or protecting worker’s rights to freedom of association, are entirely ignored. The ILO reports that there are 218 million working children aged 5-17 around the world. About 5% of these, or 12.3 million children, are employed directly in export industries that support multinational companies.

Alison Holder, Private Sector Adviser at Save the Children, said: “If the Government doesn’t enforce these essential codes, companies will continue to think about the bottom line before their social and environmental impact on the lives of children. We know that children around the world could be saved if companies were more accountable for their actions and governments have a role to play in ensuring enforceable rules are laid out. It’s time both companies and governments got their priorities straight.”

Deborah Doane, Director of the Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition added: “The Corporate Responsibility Coalition has been campaigning for some time that voluntary initiatives on corporate responsibility are not working. Our report examines three very different issues: oil, gas and mining, baby milk and child labour. The conclusions are clear - voluntary initiatives and codes only go so far. UK companies must be more accountable and transparent in law.”

Save the Children and The Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition are calling for:

· Enforcement of all codes in order to penalise companies who have signed up to the codes but failed to meet their aims.
· Governments to promote laws that underpin codes of conduct at national level, for example through labour laws or transparency laws.
· Company law to place responsibility on companies to act to the highest standards wherever they operate in the world.
· Governments and companies to support and implement international measures that can reinforce codes of conduct, such as the UN Human Rights Norms for Business and the OECD guidelines on Multinational Enterprise.

Further information

  1. Visit CORE




    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.