Child labour

This page presents all relevant good practice case studies that showcase how business have addressed the Child labour dilemma. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of multi-national companies and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. We also draw on public domain sources, including the UN Global Compact's own published Communications on Progress through which signatories are required to report on their performance against the Ten Principles.

The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions through the Forum.

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) IKEA: Child education issues and UN partnership *

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) Starbucks: Child education issues - Guatemala *

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) Singer: Child labour issues - Bangladesh *

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) Monsanto and Bayer: Child labour issues - India *

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) ILO, UNICEF et al.: Combating child labour in football production – Pakistan

Social Fora for Banana/Flowers Production: Promoting social dialogue – Ecuador

Established in 2003, the Social Forum for the Banana Production Sector was created after reports by Human Rights Watch on child labour and obstacles to freedom of association in Ecuador. A tri-partite initiative, the Forum promotes social dialogue. In May 2004, the Forum produced a Banana Sector Plan on the elimination of child labour. In 2002, the Flower Forum was created in Ecuador to foster social dialogue with leaders from the government, companies and trade unions. The Flower Forum seeks to get children out of hazardous work, such as applying pesticides, and into non-hazardous aspects of flower production.

ECLT: Bringing tobacco stakeholders together – Global

Supported by the ILO, the Elimination of Child Labour in Tobacco Foundation (ECLT) brings together tobacco companies, the International Union of Food and agricultural workers, trade unions and the International Tobacco Growers Association. The Foundation produces independent research, funds local community-based projects and shares best practice. The members of the ECLT include companies, such as Altria, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris. This is a multi-stakeholder initiative which also includes the International Tobacco Growers Association and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurants, Caterers and Tobacco Workers Federation.

Abrinq: Label for child-friendly companies – Brazil

A Brazilian Foundation, Abrinq works to promote the rights of children and adolescents up to the age of 18. In 1995, Abrinq created a child-friendly label to be put on products denoting that a company is promoting the rights of children. Abrinq has been active in combating child labour in several supply chains, including orange juice, coal, sugar and tobacco. The Foundation has facilitated the establishment of social pacts between key players in the industry which ban the use of child labour.

RugMark International: Label for carpets made without child labour – India, Nepal

RugMark is an international NGO which works to end child labour in the carpet industry in India and Nepal. RugMark has developed a label known as “Good Weave” which is affixed to rugs made without child labour. RugMark works to rehabilitate children found in the carpet industry. Thus far, it has freed 3,000 children working in the carpet industry and provided them with access to education facilities, including literacy programmes, schooling, day care and vocational training.

FWF: Enhancing working conditions in supplier factories – EU, Global

The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) works to promote good labour conditions in the supply chain for sewn textiles. The FWF has developed a Code of Labour Practices which includes a prohibition on the use of child labour. The Code references ILO Conventions 138 and 182. FWF provides a mechanism for verification for European companies. Each year, the FWF reviews the workplan of its members to ensure that they are implementing the FWF Code of Labour Practices. The FWF has also developed a complaints mechanism to address workplace grievances.

IFC: Anti-child labour policy – Global

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, issued a policy statement on forced labour and harmful child labour in 1998. Under this policy, the “IFC will not support projects that use Forced or Harmful Child Labour as defined by the ILO Convention No. 29, article 2. The IFC will incorporate the necessary provisions in its contractual documents to implement this policy.” The policy was issued in March 1998. Interim guidance on implementation issues for addressing harmful child labour was made available in July 1999.

BSCI: Enhancing social conditions among retailers – EU, Global

The BSCI is the broadest business-driven initiative for increasing social compliance in the supply chain. A membership organisation, BSCI has developed the BSCI Code which addresses a wide range of supply chain issues, including a prohibition on child labour. Members adopt the BSCI Code internally and require their suppliers to come into compliance. BSCI provides capacity building in the form of training and technical assistance. It relies on external monitoring to ensure conformance to the BSCI Code. As of October 2009, there are 381 brands and retailers participating in the BSCI.

Made-By Initiative: Label for fashion companies on social concerns – EU, Global

Headquartered in Amsterdam, Made-By is a shadow label used by a wide range of fashion companies in Europe to promote garments made in socially responsible factories and with organic raw materials. Made-By companies receive technical support to implement sustainable practices in the supply chain. Factories in China, Peru, Benin, Zambia and Senegal are benefiting from the programme. The Made-By Initiative benefits from the expertise of Solidaridad, a Dutch development organisation striving for poverty alleviation, which developed the initiative. Participating companies receive a score card, which shows the percentage of a collection that was produced by certified suppliers and the amount of organic cotton used in the collection.

Obeetee: Eliminating child labour in the carpet sector – India

A leading Indian manufacturer and exporter of rugs, Obeetee launched an awareness campaign to raise awareness about child labour in 1986. Obeetee does not buy products made by children. Obeetee established 21 depots to centralise production and to avoid weaving in the home where child labour often takes place. When announcing the no child labour policy, the company took the unusual step of paying suppliers more, so as to allow them to train adults to do the work. Suppliers who use child labour are blacklisted. Carpets made without child labour are labelled through the Kaleen label, a programme run through the Carpet Export Promotion Council of India.

Muramati: Working with an NGO to combat harmful child labour – Kenya

A Kenyan exporter of tea, Muramati collaborates with the Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK) to raise awareness about harmful child labour. The CWSK receives support from the ILO and IPEC to combat child labour by providing education to children. Muramati works with the CWSK by financing student loans and by finding jobs for workers once they have been through the training programme run by the CWSK.

ICI: Changing the way cocoa is grown – Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire

Founded in 2002, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) is a partnership of NGOs, trade unions, brands, and cocoa processors who work to address child labour through a range of programmes, including: working at the national level to build the capacity of ministries, working at the regional level, supporting social programmes and promoting radio and other media programmes that raise awareness about the consequences of child labour.

Cadbury: Enhancing the sustainability of cocoa farmers – Global

In partnership with the UN Development Programme, local governments, farmers, and communities, Cadbury, a large British multinational in the confectionary sector, has established a partnership to enhance the sustainability of one million cocoa farmers in Ghana, India, Indonesia and the Caribbean. In this 10 year programme, £45 million will be invested to improve the income levels of farmers and build partnerships. The partnership is active in 100 communities in Ghana, where the initiative is constructing new school buildings and forming youth clubs.

IKEA: Combating child labour in the supply chain – South Asia

In addition to having KPMG conduct unannounced site visits of all suppliers and subcontractors in South Asia, IKEA, a large retailer, has hired a Children’s Ombudsmen to oversee all aspects of its work with children. IKEA holds workshops for suppliers on a wide range of issues, including child labour. According to its code of conduct, ‘The IKEA Way of Preventing Child Labour’, IKEA requires all suppliers to maintain a registry of all workers and to include their date of birth. IKEA is also partnering with UNICEF to combat child labour in the carpet-producing area of India, Uttar Pradesh. The IKEA-UNICEF partnership seeks to address the root causes of child labour, including poverty and indebtedness. IKEA has helped to establish 1,600 women’s self help groups, reaching 22,000 women. In these groups, women learn about the rights of children, health and nutrition, saving money and starting up small businesses in order to eliminate debts. As a result of the project, more than 80,000 children have enrolled in schools in 500 villages.

H&M: Providing opportunities for children through a partnership with UNICEF – India

H&M, a large clothing retailer, and UNICEF have launched a five-year initiative to focus on the rights of children in cotton-producing regions of Southern India. H&M has donated US$45 million to rehabilitate child workers by providing them with educational opportunities and access to better health care and nutrition. H&M will also sell bags and then provide a share of the profits to the programme.

Marks & Spencer: Plan A and child labour - Global

Under its pillar on ‘fair partner’, M&S has committed to a number of ethical trade and labour standard commitments, which assists in the elimination of child labour within its supply chain. By the 2009/10, the company (1) extended its use of Fairtrade certified products and purchased approximately a third of the world’s Fairtrade cotton, (2) increased Fairtrade food sales by 55% from 2006/7 and sold 7.9 million Fairtrade cotton garments and (3) assisted its suppliers to develop six ethical model factories to identify and share best practice. Factories will be extended in 2012.

GSCP: Efficient ethical supply-chain management through peer cooperation – Global

The Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) was formed because “the proliferation of codes, audit duplication and divergence of approach is causing inefficiency and slowing improvement within the supply chain”. It provides a global, cross?sector platform to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practice to “build comparability and transparency between existing social compliance and environmental compliance systems.” The GSCP is based on three key pillars:

·         Development of a set of reference tools to describe existing best practice – and to “provide a common interpretation of fair labour and environmental requirements and their implementation”. This is with the aim of enabling mutual recognition between existing programmes using these tools as a ‘benchmark’ through the GSCP equivalence process

·       The building of comparability between different systems – and the facilitation of data sharing between different databases

·        Collaborative approaches towards capacity building

The GSCP currently has 39 members, including Adidas Group, Chiquita, Gap Inc., S.C. Johnson, Hasbro, Timberland and Walmart. In addition, the GSCP’s advisory board includes representatives from UNI?Commerce, FGTA?FO, the International Federation for Human Rights, ICCR (SRI), the Global Partnerships Forum and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

IKEA Foundation: Giving children a route out of child labour – Pakistan

The IKEA Foundation works in partnership with Save the Children and UNICEF to prevent child labour – donating €8 million up until the start of 2013 and pledging a further €9 million. Its efforts are focused on cotton-growing areas in Pakistan – including root causes behind child labour – and include projects focused on:

  • Providing access to education
  • Engaging families, farmers and communities around attitudes towards child labour
  • Facilitating efforts by families to find other sources of income

The Foundation estimates that by 2017, partnership projects should benefit more than 4 million children. The Foundation cites the example of one child who has already benefited; a 13 year old girl called Palwasha, whose family used to beg for a living in Pakistan. Save the Children used funding from the Foundation to establish community groups and children’s clubs in her local village – and these helped convince Palwasha’s parents that sending her to school was in her best interest.

Kraft: Minimum age requirements for suppliers – Global

Kraft Foods institutes a three-step process towards supplier management. This is based on: (1) Supplier selection and analysis (including an assessment of their code of conducts and reputation – as well as their ability to deliver); (2) Corporate responsibility in supplier contracts (including the development of contracts that incorporate corporate responsibility provisions – including those relating to forced and child labour, for example; and (3) Assessing corporate responsibility through AIM-PROGESS, Program for Responsible Sourcing (an industry initiative that allows a supplier to provide common information relating to corporate responsibility to its customers – allowing such customers to make independent business decisions on the basis of that information). At the time of writing, Kraft Foods was rolling out AIM-PROGRESS to its suppliers and business partners – a process that is likely to take several years.

Kraft Foods imposes a number of conditions on suppliers, including those relating to child labour. Suppliers are required to not use (directly or indirectly through subcontractors) anyone under the age of 18 unless legal, necessary and the following criteria are met:

·         Suppliers comply with national law or ILO Convention 138 – whichever imposes the higher minimum age. Convention 138 cites minimum employment age as the local mandatory schooling age – but not less than 15 years of age (14 in some developing countries) – subject to mandated exceptions

·         Employees working on the manufacture or packaging of Kraft’s products, serving as temporary Kraft employees or working in Kraft facilities must be at least 15

·         Suppliers demonstrate that the employment of such individuals “does not expose them to undue physical risks that can harm physical, mental, or emotional development.”

Apple: Facilitation of age-responsible hiring practices by suppliers – China

In 2012, Apple marked the third year of operation of its Prevention of Underage Labor training programme – aimed at helping its suppliers identify and prevent underage labour. During 2012, it provided training to 84 suppliers in China that were located in provinces that represent a high risk of child labour. The training addresses effective age verification methods, as well as the steps to be taken if underage employees are identified during auditing. It also introduced a guidebook to assist with the verification of legal identification documents and the assessment of the recruitment practices of third-party labour agents. Following training, the selected suppliers assess their internal and external child labour risks – and create action plans to address any concerns. These are then reviewed by Apple. Where necessary, suppliers are assisted in the implementation of their action plans by industry consultants. In addition, higher risk suppliers are given the names of labour agents that have been associated with child labour – as well as guidance as to how to work with labour agents, including advice around:

  • Ensuring the labour agents have all necessary licences and permits
  • Conducting regular audits of labour agents’ recruitment practices
  • Reporting violations, both to Apple and to the local authorities

Apple: Transparent reporting/effective action on child labour amongst subcontractors – China

In its Supplier Responsibility 2013 Progress Report, Apple notes that during 2012, it found no cases of underage labour at any of its final assembly suppliers. Nonetheless, it notes that “dishonest third-party labor agents conspire to corrupt the system”. In an example of transparent reporting, it cites the example of an audit of supplier Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co., Ltd. (PZ) in January 2012, during which it identified 74 cases of workers under the age of 16 – in violation of Apple’s Code of Conduct. The contract was terminated.

In addition, Apple notes that one of the region’s largest labour agencies – Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources Co., Ltd. (Quanshun) – knowingly provided children to PZ. This reportedly included collusion with families to forge relevant identification documents to give the impression children were older than they were. Apple informed the provincial government of these practices – and Quanshun was subsequently fined and had its licence suspended.

Meanwhile, Apple cites two further outcomes from the episode:

  • The affected children were returned to their families – and Quanshun “was required to pay expenses to facilitate their successful return
  • The company that subcontracted its work to PZ was prompted by Apple’s findings to audit its other subcontractors for underage labour – widening the positive impact of the discovery

Hewlett Packard: Eliminating student and temporary labour from supply chain - China

Electronics manufacturer Hewlett Packard (HP) has begun imposing limits on the number of students and temporary workers that may be employed in its Chinese factories. Its company policy now states that during peak production periods, students and temporary workers should not comprise more than 20% of the workforce. According to HP, this will eventually be reduced to 10%. However, no official timeframe for this reduction has been released. Students and temporary workers are frequently hired during periods of high productivity, when factories need to fulfil rush orders. They are often subjected to long working hours and low wages. HP’s new supplier code stipulates that all work must be voluntary, and that students and temporary workers must be given access to grievance mechanisms. An HP Spokesperson stated that training sessions for suppliers and workshops for government officials, NGOs and academics, would be held in March 2013.

Vodafone: Partnering with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to improve healthcare for children - Africa

In December 2012, Vodafone and GAVI initiated a partnership project to improve the supply of vaccinations to children in Africa through the use of mobile technology. Vodafone and GAVI both invested US$1.5 million to assess the situation and to prepare an action plan for improvement of the provision of healthcare, in particular the access to vaccines and immunisation for children in Africa. One of the goals of the partnership is to improve communication between health workers, vaccination providers and patients through the use of mobile phones. The first stage of the programme will be tested in Mozambique. The work in Mozambique will be based on the experiences of implementing a similar programme in Tanzania, where 5,000 hospitals used Vodafone’s mobile management system to record and track the provision of health care, such as supply of vaccines and to organise deliveries. In addition, Vodafone has secured a further US$55 million in investment to support GAVI’s goal to immunise 250 million children and prevent four million deaths in areas of poor governance by 2015.


UNICEF: Provincial Child Labour Survey - Pakistan


In December 2015, UNICEF collaborated with the Punjab Labour & Human Resource Department in Pakistan by giving Rs50 million (US$ 481.9 million) in funding towards the Provincial Child Labour Survey. The previous child labour survey was conducted in 1996, since which there has been a huge increase in the number of industrial and commercial businesses operating. As a result of the outdated child labour survey and an increase in industry, the Punjab government initiated the provincial level survey in order to obtain accurate facts and figures about child labour occurring in the province. UNICEF will provide financial and technical assistance to the project which will help to curb child labour in the region.


Swedwatch: Kimberley Process no longer sufficient to guarantee diamonds are free of child labour – Democratic Republic of Congo

In December 2016, Swedwatch published the results of an investigation into child labour in diamond mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and weakness of the Kimberley Process. The report examines how children in the DRC, which is the world’s third-largest diamond producer, are affected by conditions in small-scale mine sites. The report finds that diamond supply chains are tainted with child labour, including child sexual exploitation.

The report also addresses company corporate responsibility in relation to children’s rights in the diamond supply chain. Swedwatch’s survey of Swedish diamond importers and jewellery companies indicates that implementation of voluntary human rights due diligence standards is low.

Swedwatch concludes that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the only diamond certification certification scheme, is no longer effective and requires restructuring or replacement. Swedwatch argue that the definition of ‘unethical’ diamonds used by the KPCS, which focuses on the relationship between diamonds and conflict, no longer reflects the reality of human rights abuse occurring in most diamond-producing countries.

Swedwatch encourages companies associated with diamond supply chains to:

·         Make public commitments to respect human rights and children’s rights, and to establish adequate systems to identify, prevent and address abuses


·         Actively urge the Kimberley Process and the World Diamond Council to adopt the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights


·         Work not just with direct suppliers but also with other actors in the diamond supply chain (such as other companies in the same industry or other important stakeholders in the value chain)

* Taken from: UN Global Compact et al, Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide