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12 September 2022

A new report released today shows there is an overwhelming lack of attention being given by Australian companies on the impacts their business has on children, with less than 1% having a specific commitment to respecting children’s rights further than just child labour.

The report, undertaken in late 2021 by Ethical Partners Funds Management in collaboration with UNICEF Australia, is the result of a benchmarking exercise across ASX 200 companies using UNICEF’s global standards tool ‘Investor Guidance on Integrating Children’s Rights into Investment Decision Making’ – used to examine the way businesses impact children.

“Every company interacts with children in some way: as consumers, as employers of their parents and caregivers, and through the way their operations affect society and the environment. They are the next generation of consumers, yet when it comes to promoting actions to protect and enhance their safety, health, development and wellbeing, the report shows that there is a long way to go,” said UNICEF Australia CEO, Tony Stuart.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 81% of companies publicly disclose a zero-tolerance policy to child labour.
  • Less than 1% of companies have a specific commitment to respecting children’s rights further than child labour.
  • Only 2% of companies disclosed that they identify children as a stakeholder group and engage directly with them.
  • Just 2% of companies disclosed that they have some sort of child safeguarding mechanism or policy
  • 57% of companies benchmarked disclosed that they have a philanthropic commitment that supports child rights-based organisations.

“This report gives an insight into how these companies are performing, but also focuses on key areas in which leaders and investors can take meaningful action. It shows the importance of embedding a child-focussed approach into business strategies, as well as guiding investors to access information about children’s rights in portfolio companies,” said Mr Stuart.

214 Australian organisations were benchmarked (the ASX 200 and 14 companies from the ASX 300) with companies subsequently provided with their results, and a chance to provide additional disclosures or to clarify the findings.

“As the world’s largest children’s organisation, working in over 190 countries to promote the rights and wellbeing of all children, UNICEF Australia encourages businesses and investors to recognise the importance of children, to engage with children as a stakeholder group, and look to how their operations and decisions intersect with the direct and indirect impacts on the lives of every child. As an absolute minimum, every large organisation should have a child safeguarding policy,” said Mr Stuart.  

The report provides the results of the benchmarking analysis, as well as detailed guidance for companies who wish to learn more about how they can strengthen their practice in ten key areas including including governance, marketing to children and reporting and disclosure.

Robyn Parkin, Head of Sustainability at Ethical Partners Funds Management, said: “It is very clear that the need for corporate and investor attention to the impacts of business on children and their rights have never been more urgent. It is also very clear from our research that ASX listed companies across the board have a real opportunity to improve their polices, practices and disclosures in this area.”

“We therefore hope that the release of this report will provide even more impetus for fruitful engagements between Australian investors and companies, on how companies and investors alike can more broadly and deeply consider, assess and disclose the impact of their business or their portfolios on children”.

About Ethical Funds Management

Ethical Partners Funds Management is a boutique Australian fund manager that is fully owned by its staff and founders. Ethical Partners Funds Management have a dual focus on performance and investing ethically and invest using an approach that directly manages risk and identifies opportunities, provides the ability to invest in line with clients’ values, actively addresses the impact of our investments and engages and advocates for change. Ethical Partners believe that a genuine and integrated approach to assessing a company’s management of ESG is fundamental to assessing both investment risks and the investment opportunities that are presented by the changing world in which we live. ESG is the responsibility of every member of the Ethical Partners Funds Management investment team and is integrated into every investment decision. Ethical Partners Funds Management’s active engagement and wider advocacy program is also integral to our approach to responsible investment.

For more information about Ethical Partners Funds Management, visit www.ethicalpartners.com.au