Children, ethics vs big business 

It is undeniable that socio-economic factors affect every aspect of the business environment. It is businesses that are able to consider these factors that are able to remain sustainable in the area they choose to operate in. A large portion of multinational companies’ budgets goes into research that provides solutions seeking to make strategies "local". 

In years past, the United Nations has been very vocal on the rights of children in the workplace. As more and more organisations start crossing their borders to stamp their footprint on untapped markets, businesses find that they encounter challenges that might not have been present in the areas they originate from. The violation of children’s rights is a serious offence that can ruin the reputation of any business; therefore no business can afford not to look with seriousness the significance of these rights.

Head of Sustainability at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Rachel Jackson, explained in a report titled Protecting children's rights "is good for business", the importance of organisations observing the rights of children. Rachel Jackson noted that there are 168 million child labourers around the world; in a planet of 7 billion people this is still a very high figure. The number of child labourers was estimated at 821 000 by the labour minister, Mildred Olifant in South Africa. Rachel Jackson’s call, to CFOs and their accounting teams, focuses on the need for a greater sense of awareness and the power CFOs possess in reducing such figures through their daily business activities.

It needs to be noted that odds become lesser for a former child labourer to be an efficient contributor in the market place as an adult due to a lack of education. While their peers are in the classroom, child labourers spend that time doing hard labour losing out on skills that could help them secure better employment.

As CFOs approach this issue, they need to understand that children are tomorrow’s workforce; the rights of these young ones need to be enforced in order for them to become engaged and productive members of the business world in the future. As CFOs aim to maintain and improve the reputation of businesses, children’s rights cannot be ignored as the negligence of these can disrupt businesses from achieving their bottom line. South African organisations have in the past lost market share because of allegations that hinted that they were involved in the violation of children’s rights in the market place. “People are a firm’s greatest asset”, said Karen Smal, Acting Head of ACCA SA. Businesses across the world are working at improving their business models by integrating long-term planning to their strategies. If CFOs are concerned about future sustainability then they will start investing and protecting these ‘assets’ as early as possible. CFOs will make sure that they don’t violate the rights of children and that the stakeholders they do business with uphold a strong sense of ethics.

As technology improves and we see the emergence of great innovation in the business world; CFOs need to understand that in embracing these, the true assets in tomorrow’s world are the children whose rights need protecting.