Addressing child labour in the supply chain is a business-critical issue for retailers and brands – and new guidance offers advice on what they can do to identify, manage, mitigate and prevent the risk.

Produced by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) the free business manual on Child Labour is aimed at helping companies develop a deeper understanding of key concepts and legal responsibilities.

Recognising that each situation is different, and that no 'one size fits all' approach is possible, the guidance aims to help companies improve their approaches to child labour in their supply chains.

It sets out four stages in effectively managing the risk of child labour, telling companies how to:

  • Assess the actual and potential risk of child labour.
  • Identify their corporate leverage and responsibility – and the decision-making and actions that are necessary.
  • Mitigate risk and remediation in cases where violations of standards are found.
  • Monitor implementation and impact to ensure that the best interests of children are at the forefront of any action taken.

"Understanding and addressing child labour can be a minefield for companies," explains ETI spokesperson Cindy Berman.

"Universally agreed and legally binding rights of the child are enshrined by the United Nations (UN). Yet, while international standards are clear the reality in countries is too often different."

Depending on a country's development status, the age that a child can officially start working full time may be as young as 14, and 13 for part-time work.

However, ETI regards the lower age range for full-time work as unacceptable.

When negotiating with suppliers, it advises companies to set clear red lines that are consistent with its Base Code of labour practices and the highest international standards.

"Child labour is a business-critical issue and addressing it is essential for a company's credibility and legitimacy," Berman adds.

Click here to download ETI's new base code guidance on child labour.