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Business and Human Rights: what does it mean for child labour?

Principle 5 of the United Nations Guiding Principles calls for businesses to uphold the effective abolition of child labour.

Child labour is not only a violation of a child’s right to education, dignity, health, and play; it also can have a serious impact of the child’s future potential. Children who miss out on education and grow up illiterate struggle to access decent work, earn an adequate living and are more likely to have to send their children into child labour to supplement the family income when they become a parent one day. Child labour can result in a workforce with is under-skilled and unqualified which is detrimental to economic growth.

What can companies do?

1. Raise awareness Raising awareness amongst employers, managers and group leaders on what constitutes child labour, for example is it hindering the child’s education, could it be harmful to their mental or physical well-being, is the work for long hours or even over night? Understanding this means that players throughout the supply chain can identify the risk of child labour, and whether or not something needs to be done to address this.

2. Take action and refer If child labour is identified at any level of the supply chain, immediate action needs to be taken to remove the child from child labour, and the child and their family needs to be supported with alternative options. This could be by making sure the child is attending school regularly, that the parents have alternative ways of making a living, and that young people above the minimum working age have access to decent work opportunities.

3. Continuing to monitor and working together

Child labour has many complex and deeply rooted causes. Whether or not any instances of child labour have arisen in a supply chains, companies have a duty to continue to monitor the situation. Contexts can change rapidly for communities and crises like natural disasters, unrest or conflict, mass migration, or even a pandemic could push millions more children into child labour at any point.

Working with other industries, civil society and the Government to coordinate action to tackle child labour avoids duplication of work, prevents chidren from falling back into child labour, and means that interventions can reach many more children bringing long-lasting change for families.

For more information on precise steps that the private sector can take to protect children from child labour in their supply chains, read more from the UN Global Compact here.

ECLT’s Pledge of Commitment

The ECLT Foundation Members’ Pledge of Commitment brings together a major portion of the multi-national corporations in the world’s tobacco-sourcing supply chain. Pledge members are responding to the fact that tobacco growing worldwide will not be free of child labour until the industry can work together effectively at all levels - manufacturers, suppliers, buyers and farmers.

Members commit to uphold robust policy, conduct due diligence and provide for remediation against child labour, in line with international laws and based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) recognised to be best practices for businesses.

The Members recognise that the Pledge cannot fully address the complex root causes of child labour on its own. Making progress against systemic issues, such as poverty, lack of access to education, inadequate infrastructure and cultural acceptance of child labour, requires partnerships and sustained commitment. Collective industry effort is a major part of making progress, but the scale and complexity of the problem require stronger collaboration with stakeholders, like international organisations, governments, agricultural sectors, and communities themselves. In line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7 and SDG 17, Pledge Members are committed to engage with others for the progressive elimination of child labour in tobacco-growing areas.