The Left Behind in Sustainability Practices: Children and Women

WTO Public Forum Session
Organised by
Save the Children and ICTSD
2 October 2018
Room S2, WTO

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.

Main takeaways

  • 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.

Mario Cerutti is currently President of the European Coffee Federation (ECF) – he served as president in ECF also from 2004 to 2007. He is serving as President of  Italian Coffee Committee (CIdC -  Comitato Italiano del Caffè) -  the association of large Italian coffee companies - , as Chairman of the Coffee & Climate Steering Committee and as member of the board of the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC). He is board member of ICP (International Coffee Partners).

He was born in Torino (Italy) in 1958. He graduated in Business Administration at the University of Torino and got an MBA from the University of Dallas. He has been working in Lavazza since 1986, currently he is Chief Institutional Relations and Sustainability Officer in Lavazza.

Mr. Forsberg has built up the Corporate Social Responsability work and in particular the work on Child Rights and Business of Save the Children Sweden. Mr. Forsberg has long experience engagement with the corporate sector, in particular in Asia, and has a background in the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, The Swedish Prime Minister’s Office, the Swedish Trade Council, the Ministry of Education, and in development cooperation.

Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz is co‐founding Chief Executive of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and publisher of BRIDGES periodicals since their conception in 1997. Currently serves as convener for the E15 Initiative, a joint undertaking of ICTSD and the World Economic Forum (WEF) looking into the future of the global trade system. Non-Executive Director of the Meridian Institute (US) and IP Watch (Geneva), and member of the WEF’s Global Agenda Council. Also of the Advisory Group of the Global Commission on Business and Sustainability launched in 2016. Formerly a negotiator on trade, development and environmental matters; co-founder and inaugural Executive Director of Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano (Quito). Chief of Administration of the Office of the President of Colombia. 


Full biography

Greg has been a key figure in the development of IKEA sustainability strategy, “People and Planet Positive” and leads the development and integration of strategic sustainability initiatives, policies and standards. An ongoing priority is the integration of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights with a special focus on issues related to the ethical recruitment of migrant workers, living wage and decent work. Greg has been a leader in developing the company’s approach to integrating children’s rights into IKEA’s business through the Children’s Rights and Business Principles. He is also responsible for Inter IKEA’s external stakeholder engagement on sustainability. Greg has been working in the sustainability area for the past 18 years, with both a consumer facing and supply chain focus. He has been on the board of several global sustainability related initiatives.

Sally is a senior consultant specialising in gender, market systems, and inclusive and sustainable development. She has in-depth knowledge of sustainability standards and certification schemes in global production systems and value chains, and a comprehensive history of research and advisory services to public, private and not-for-profit agencies. Recent assignments include: gender audit for the UK's Ethical Trading Initiative and analysis of member companies' gender-related activities; research on women's participation and leadership in Fairtrade-certified cooperatives and support for development of a Gender Strategy for Fairtrade International; scoping study on women's economic empowerment in Africa and the Middle East for the Open Society Foundations; and development of living wage and living income benchmarks in Ghana for ISEAL Alliance and partner organizations. From 2002 to 2010 Sally was a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, and prior to that held various management roles in the private sector (including eight years in Guatemala and Cambodia).