Unicef publishes draft guidance on children’s rights for investors

Draft for consultation prepared with GES

Unicef, the United Nations’ children’s agency, has put together draft guidance for investors on children’s rights in collaboration with Sweden-based ESG house GES International.

The new draft, which is now out for consultation, has been developed to help investors consider children’s rights in their analysis and engagement. The document outlines both expectations on the investors and investor expectations for companies.

The aim is to “provide a hands-on tool, which is relevant for investors and easy to put into practice”.

“Investors have a critical role in shaping and influencing corporate actions relating to human rights including children’s rights, but in an investor landscape of proliferating human rights and sustainability initiatives, children have little prominence on the agenda,” the draft states.

“While few would admit to knowingly neglecting this stakeholder group, investors’ human rights policies and other due diligence rarely take into account the special considerations around children.”

It adds that the “standard approach” may not sufficiently identify, let alone mitigate, child-related risks – with potential “material consequences to companies and investments alike”.

Speaking at the EMPEA Summit in London this week, Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore called the initiative a tool to know the “child footprint of your investment decisions”.She also spoke of creating investible opportunities and a public-private partnership launched last month at the UN General Assembly called Generation Unlimited (“Gen-U”) with South Korean popstars BTS.

The guidance document is based on the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, launched by Unicef, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children in 2012, and on GES’s Investor Guidance for Children’s Rights Integration issued in 2016.

“Explicitly acknowledge children’s rights in responsible investment policy”

Some investors, notably Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), do recognise the issue; children’s rights is one of its three focus areas; it is referred to in the new document.

The first item in the guidance calls for investors to:

“Explicitly acknowledge children’s rights in responsible investment policy, articulate specific expectations to investors and publicly communicate the investor’s approach to managing child rights risks.”

It goes on to suggest that investors should identify the sectors, companies and regions most at risk of child rights breaches and that they should avoid investing in companies whose business models are “inherently detrimental to children’s rights”. The deadline for feedback to the consultation is November 9. Contact Tytti Kaasinen and Ida Hyllested.