Non-state actors have become increasingly important drivers of sustainable trade. The Children’s Rights and Business Principles is an innovative approach for businesses to integrate children’s rights and impact on families into supply chains, product and marketing, and community development. An increasing number of standards are working to mainstream gender equality. These schemes will support millions of children, women, and households, enable businesses to meet their Triple Bottom Line, and contribute to governments’ attainment of the SDGs, especially in relation to SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production) and long-term competitiveness.
This session discussed concrete and practical examples of solutions from company leaders and experts from different parts of the world on how integrating children and women rights can improve brand reputation, risk management, and contribute to the SDGs. The session addressed the impact of global changes, such as rising South-South trade and technology disruptions, on sustainability frameworks for business impact on women and children.
- A narrow focus on child labour or gender provisions in standards risks neglecting the myriad other ways that trade affects the welfare of children, women, and other disadvantaged actors in international trade. Trade policy influences a wide range of aspects of child and female welfare, and policymakers and firms should mainstream an understanding of these impacts into how they do business.
- Companies are learning how to improve the livelihoods of their suppliers, including through partnerships with NGOs that address the real concerns faced by women in their supply chains.
- Concerns are often raised that providing good conditions for women and children is costly, and that international trade heightens competitive pressures such that those costs become unaffordable, spurring a race to the bottom. This is to be avoided. Using sustainability standards as a way to market compliance with social and labour norms is one way to do so, but it is also true that improving the livelihoods of suppliers does not necessarily increase prices.
- Trade policy can promote gender equality by focusing on female-dominated sectors; making sure that gender provisions are supported as legitimate in trade dispute settlement mechanisms; and including sections in regional agreements, as in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, that prevent a race to the bottom in tax competition, labour, and related areas.
This event was organised as part of the WTO Public Forum 2018.
Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz, Chief Executive of ICTSD, is the moderator.