Author: Chhavi Sompura
III Year | The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara
“There’s no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children” – Kailash Satyarthi.
Children are the present and the future. They represent growth and are a vital organ of society. They are one of the most vulnerable part too, and thus, need the best protection and guidance.
Evils like child labour and child trafficking do not seem to end anytime soon. Child labour is a problem that is present everywhere. It is dangerous, and unfortunately, we do not have any permanent cure for it yet.
Consequently, child labour destroys childhood and stunts the growth of children. Moreover, it also takes away right to dream and live the lives they want to live. Children are conditioned to think that they are destined for the lives they live and to think within the constricting bounds of the economic and social conditions.
Governments, individuals, activists, NGOs, and other organizations try their best to end child labour. However, many factors need our attention, and we fall short of it every time. When we as a community/society try to eliminate such social evils, businesses also have their role to play. In this article, we will see how businesses can contribute towards eradication of child labour through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
What is CSR?
Corporate Social Responsibility is defined as actions on the part of a firm that appear to advance the promotion of some social good beyond the immediate interests of the firm/shareholders and beyond legal requirements. In other words, CSR includes those activities/ projects/ programs of businesses that include environmental and social problems into the company’s planning, organization and operations.
Some consider it as a company’s attempt to improve its social impact or to negate any negative impacts it has inflicted in the past. Subsequently, CSR has gained much-needed importance as it helps companies with better public relations, customer satisfaction, more profits and satisfied stakeholders, positive impact on the market value and brand value of the company. Lately, the philanthropic approach of CSR has evolved towards being more stakeholders-oriented.
In India, according to Section 135 (1) of The Companies Act, 2013, every company having a net worth of rupees five hundred crores or more, or turnover of rupees one thousand crores or more or a net profit of rupees five crores or more during any financial year has to constitute a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee.
Corporates and CSR:
Companies sometimes indirectly involve child labour without even knowing it. The risks are usually small with direct suppliers, but they may be greater further back in the chain. Child labour is present in various stages – be it in supply chains, retailing, or raw material suppliers in any form or any part of the business process. Thus, companies can achieve big impact by putting in efficient efforts to eliminate child labour through their policies and programs.
In this process, CSR plays an important role as companies can achieve the goal of eliminating child labour and uplifting child rights through the projects and programs undertaken as part of their corporate social responsibility. The big businesses are powerful enough, both financially and authoritatively, to take care of this section of society.
Examples of Responsible Companies:
Companies now understand the importance of CSR and its sustainability and significance when it comes to children. Many industries have taken collective decisions to eliminate child labour.
One such example is of cocoa or chocolate industry. The Harkin-Engel Protocol 2001, signed by the World Cocoa Foundation and Cocoa Manufacturers Association was aimed at developing a “credible, mutually acceptable system of industry-wide global standards, along with independent monitoring and reporting, to identify and eliminate” the worst forms of child labour as defined by International Labour Organisation Convention No. 182. It also established certification to the effect that cocoa used, or related products are void of child labour. This action made companies more answerable & responsible towards child labour.
In India, two cosmetic giants L’Oréal, Yves Rocher and Estee-Lauder partnered with Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) to eliminate endemic child labour in the mica industry. Mica supplier Mereck also partnered with BBA to create child-friendly villages and eliminate child labour in the industry.
Other Indian businesses have also done their bit to uplift and promote child rights and provide better facilities to children. Aditya Birla group, ICICI bank, Azim Premji foundation of Wipro have opened schools, provided vocational training and quality education to girls and youth of the country through various programs under their corporate social responsibility.
CSR is a comparatively newer concept and hence, will take some time to bear fruit. It is a good initiative to make the corporates answerable and make them realize their duty while also helping social and environmental betterment. CSR is surely bringing change and will be even better in the future when more companies realize its significance.
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Editor: Anusha Jabi