New research released today by UNICEF and Ipsos MORI shows that more than two-thirds of UK businesses interviewed think that responsibilities to children will become more important to UK companies over the next five years (67% strongly/ tend to agree), and yet 89% do not currently include children’s rights among their main corporate responsibility issues.

Four in ten (39%) companies interviewed say that children’s rights and children’s welfare is not an issue they address to any great extent in their corporate responsibility activities, according to the CSR Market Assessment.  Only 11% include children’s rights and children’s welfare among their main corporate responsibility issues, with a further 29% saying it is an issue they address alongside several others.

The research is being released one year on from the launch of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, the first comprehensive set of principles to guide companies on the actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights. Each of the 10 Principles lays out specific actions in detail, including contributing to the elimination of child labour, using marketing and advertising that respect and support children's rights, and ensuring that products and services are safe.

Around a third (37%) of businesses that took part in the research say they know at least a little about the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, and 82% think the concept of the Principles useful in encouraging UK companies to act on responsibilities to children.

David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF UK, said: “All businesses, whether large or small, have an impact on the lives of children, directly or indirectly. Children are key stakeholders of business, as family members of employees, as young workers, consumers and future employees. At the same time, children are affected by the impact of business operations on communities and the environment.

“Yet with 39% of UK companies saying that they do not address issues around responsibilities to children to any great extent, this research shows that much more work needs to be done to encourage businesses to understand and address their impact on children's rights.

“The Children's Rights and Business Principles were developed to help businesses do this, and they set out concrete actions that businesses can take in the workplace,  marketplace, and the community.

“At UNICEF UK, we will continue to use the Principles to engage with current and prospective corporate partners, and the wider business community, and to offer practical guidance on how they can integrate respect and support for child rights into their core strategies and operations to achieve long-term positive outcomes for children.”

Since the launch of the Principles, UNICEF has developed a series of guidance tools to help businesses understand and address their potential and actual impact on children's rights. The tools are currently being piloted by more than 40 companies from 22 countries, and will be made public later this year.

Today, UNICEF will be meeting with representatives from the private sector, government and civil society at the World Child and Youth Forum in Sweden to take stock of how the Children’s Rights and Business Principles have been operationalised by companies to advance efforts to respect and support children’s rights, and to identify areas for improvement.

The Principles, which were developed by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children, have been released by more than 27 countries so far, with businesses informed and engaged at country level. More releases are scheduled to take place later this year.

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Note to editors:

For case studies, interviews can be arranged with a number of companies that are actively engaged in assessing or addressing their impact on children's rights, including Marks and Spencer, IKEA, Kuoni and Millicom.

Note on the research:

Following a qualitative phase, 150 quantitative interviews were conducted with CSR decision makers in large companies in the UK.  A carefully constructed sample was used to reflect the views of companies in a range of different industry sector categories, and companies of different sizes (excluding smaller companies with fewer than 250 employees).  Sample was sourced from leading business directories, and screening was used to identify the person most appropriate to interview, namely the person responsible for CSR/ corporate responsibility and similar issues in each company.  The data have not been weighted.  Interviews were carried out by telephone from 21 May – 13 July 2012.

For a copy of the full CSR Market Assessment, or to arrange an interview with a UNICEF spokesperson or a relevant company, please contact:

Ju-Lin Tan, UNICEF UK, 020 7375 6030, 07814 549 071 julint@unicef.org.uk

About UNICEF

UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation for children, working in over 190 countries to help every child realise their full potential. We work with partners to transform the lives of children everywhere.

UNICEF provides health care, water, nutrition, education and protection for children. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are our priority. As champion of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we work to protect and promote the rights of every child.

UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit www.unicef.org.uk