Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an undertaking that a company has the capability to develop enduring the challenges while at the same time ascertaining that all its stakeholders obtain equitable services. The increase in demand of cheap labor in developing countries sees a lot of abuse on children as power sources. Poverty in the developing world contributes a great proportion in child labor because children act as supplement sources of income for their poor families. Hence, interventions of non-governmental organization become necessary to help combat child labor. The difference between the companies with great participation in CSR and those having fewer activities is much more comparing to two high earning companies. Situations like this make it necessary to understand better ways to carry out CSR voluntarily and obtain profits without exploiting the children as sources of labor. Thus cooperating with NGOs in developing countries in regards to prevention of child labor and still get profits is more productive than forcing signing of codes of conduct with authorities. It is worth to understand corporate social responsibility as more than only signing charitable checks.
Current state of CSR in developing countries
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In developing countries, there is a lot that is happening as far as CSR activities. The outcomes from observations, experience and experiments differ about the subject, some obtaining considerate differences while others establish less difference. Lately, governments and other NGOs have seen the need to engage in direct CSR activities. In Africa, the operations of CSR have much of foreign influence. The need to undertake CSR has much connection to the business opportunities. However, denying the companies and other firms using child labor has colonial effect and thus it calls for signing of agreements with the host governments to undertake CSR (Hopkins, 2007, p. 178). A survey by the EIU reveals that the importance of CSR in American and European countries consists about 40 % of among others the quest create and better community relationships and to deviate pressure from authorities. Differently in Asian world, only 33% have a similar view because firms here have less concern to social responsibilities and the regulators have less pressure (Hopkins, 2007). In Asia CSR varies a lot among different countries, not because of the development rates but due to the business complexes at these countries. Here, the international companies have high probability of accepting responsibility than those solely operating in their home nations with mode of CSR having much influence from host nations (Hopkins, 2007). However, many researches differ on the purpose of CSR in Asia. Some indicate that the level of development within a country is a factor while others consider it as not. Other areas such as Brazil, South Africa, India and areas in the East Europe, CSR is more mature than the thinking of many while in countries like China, Egypt and Russia has very little CSR activities (Hopkins, 2007). Hence, it is necessary to understand the operations of different CSR initiates as they different between different countries.
Assessment of corporate social responsibility initiates
With a rise in demand for cheap labor due to increasing economic activities in developing countries, it is necessary to establish proper ways to combat child labor putting this concern to be of high priority. This including means to stop child trafficking, it comes as a collective responsibility for the international community in the legal field to see it a success. Succeeding in this means to have capable political class with determination to support on obtaining information on the status of the child labor which is off late a problem as many countries’ surveys do not obtain information for persons below the age of 15 (Arnal et al., 2003). For developing countries, child labor forms an option of earning income for the poor class in the society creating an obstacle to elimination of child labor because of the survival chances of these families (Arnal et al., 2003). It is certain that poor education of the community have great effect on the economic growth of a country.
Due to the above, international organizations find the obligation to fight child labor for both economic and human rights purposes. The International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), UNICEF and World Bank facilitates the International Labor Organization (ILO) to enable the NGOs to combat child labor. With the host nations having the obligation to ratify the necessary ILO agreements “and through technical co-operation, helping countries formulate policies and programs dealing with child labor” (Arnal et al., 2003. p. 51). The host governments show their willingness to combat the problem by confirming their mission with ILO then pioneer necessary activities under the IPEC. According to IPEC, the direct influence on children had multiplied by the year 2003 compared to 2000 showing the growing impact by these NGOs on children’s lives (Arnal et al., 2003).
Since most of the countries have incoherent laws concerning child labor, it becomes difficult to implement ILO conventions thus signing codes of conduct have some times no much benefits (Arnal et al., 2003). Such incoherent in the legal systems show the need for establishment of private codes by member companies to monitor the results by themselves. The significance impact of NGOs on government policies of combating child labor is evident as there relation sets the appropriate direction to follow where the NGOs set up proactive assessment to establish weakness and possibilities to expand (Raul et al., 2002). Initiatives by NGOs can be like the certification schemes, which work towards labeling of goods indicating that children did not labor to produce such goods. As a marketing strategy, local retailers as well as manufacturing industries use this voluntary social labeling scheme to indicate their concern on child labor. Although they obtain human and civil rights groups critics in developing countries, customers become aware that source firms produce these goods fairly without child labor. Despite their success, ILO proposes that such schemes should consist of other activities within the wide perspective of the strategy because “social labeling may establish a long-term place for itself as one way of helping children” (Haspels et al., 2000, p. 241) despite the ongoing studies by ILO to establish their effectiveness.
Participation of stakeholders
Many NGOs are not bias to the conditions of children and therefore they have the greatest opportunity to interact with the working children where they are able to establish their needs and problems thus understanding them appropriately. With better international relations at all levels, they are able to obtain resources and mobilize for necessary doings to fight the vice. With their capacity to participate at different levels, they are able to obtain information concerning the children both locally and internationally. NGOs participation at ILO helps a lot in implementation of policies to combat child labor (Haspels et al., 2000) and this helps in setting the appropriate guidelines by the host governments. With the support of IPEC, NGOs are able to create awareness to affected children and their families and they end up “withdrawing children from hazardous work, and providing them with appropriate options and rehabilitation programs” (Haspels et al., 2000, p. 298). In addition, IPEC offers helping hand to international NGOs to carry out researches concerning child labor and therefore they are able to comment on government submissions and the state of child labor at their locations when they participate at international meetings. Such actions by NGOs are difficult for governments to undertake thus establishing better relations produces much better results than if the governments work solely to combat child labor.
For example, a worldwide Global March an initiation of the NGOs with workers’ organizations in 1998 saw great participation from the world creating awareness on child labor. Working at local and global levels, satisfying results show how co-operations with NGOs can yield considerate results (Haspels et al., 2000) at both levels. NGOs have the capabilities to implement child labor campaigns, carry out researches, offer services direct to the children, present technical assistance to other organizations and offer necessary training using appropriate professionals (Haspels et al., 2000).
Global value chains operations and codes of conduct
Codes of conduct show obligations set by private companies to maintain necessary labor standards within their chains of operations and indicate the layout for trading at international requirements to consumers showing that the production of goods for developed countries in developing countries is fair and no involvement of child labor in their production. They have the perspective of not only showing CSR within the society but also tries to complete the spaces left by international laws (Kolk & Van Tulder, “Setting new global rules”). Their role within the global business operations is to control the operations of international business. Showing the latest status of the CSR, they are able to examine compliance hence the better chances of efficiency. From such regulations formation of institutions such as NGOs are able to organize their participation at their location in collaboration with host governments to ensure that there is no human abuse. The codes of conduct within the developing countries can produce excellent results only if they have proper management despite complication within different state laws on child protection. A part from the formal agreements to sign, “these private initiatives can be a complementary tool to combat child labor, but only… that they are monitored properly and alternatives to child labor are effectively offered” (Arnal et al., 2003, p. 12). Mostly causes of child labor depend on the variation of both supply and demand.
Since the companies practice use of the codes of ethics for their own benefits, they yield better results to combating child labor because they do it on voluntary basis (Haspels et al., 2000) and this indicates firms’ participation in CSR as their codes of conduct may dictate. Therefore, within such operations companies and NGOs have the obligation to evaluate their contribution towards CSR that have social concerns. As such efforts are not adequate, co-operations “with broad national-based coalitions to raise awareness and provide long-term solutions for working children,” (Haspels et al., 2000, p. 244) is necessary and has the potential for better results. The cooperation between these companies and IPEC enable to combat the vice from the grass roots has more success. A survey in India by ILO show that in 1997, 12 percent of 1,314 industries employed child labor compared to 43 percent in 1995, a significant drop showing considerable results (Haspels et al., 2000, p. 237). Still in India, collaboration of NGOs with financing organizations has great positive results to combating child labor. In addition, big organizations like UNICEF help to design appropriate programs in conjunction with local NGOs to find success. Therefore, measures to combating child labor using ILO strategy secure international conventions on the applicable minimum working age for children (“Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society,” n.d.). The global value chains can have either internal or external influences. With some companies having considerate share of global market, they integrate with local companies presenting pressure to these small firms to meet set standards and this has seen commitment of the small companies and NGOs in fighting child labor (Schimitz, 2004, p. 303).
The role of women workers in value chains
Often known as caregivers, women “remain invisible and unrecognized as workers, both because they are women and because work in the informal economy is often hidden” (Chen & United Nations Development Fund for Women, 2005, p. 14). Within the global economy context, global values chains assist in understanding relationships that exist in business ventures within the complex global economy. The value chains also can assist to establish critical shifts within the economy. However, a crucial component lacks within these global chains and that is the role of workers within the chain context. Regardless of their position within the chains from those few working in small shops to those working in thousands at different factories, workers are undoubtedly important economic participants. Their contribution is what brings value to the companies they are working for and their capabilities to restrain labor, hence they will dictate the operation of the global chain, and this group includes the women (Quan, 2008). Their contribution has both internal and external influences where workers unions and human rights organizations “advocates about labor conditions and sourcing practices within the supply chain” (Quan, 2008). Thus to explore the global chains accordingly, it is necessary to look at the input of workers within the system. It then becomes necessary to educate workers about these processes to understand their contribution. Due to cheap labor and lack of labor rights in most developing countries, production can shift from developed countries to developing countries (Quan, 2008). Consequently, by understanding workers role within the chain can helps human rights and workers unions to fight for the rights of the children thus companies cannot abuse cheap child labor for their benefits.
In addition, current researches by World Bank indicate, “that gender inequalities are a key constraint on economic growth and a major cause of poverty not only for women, but also their families and communities” (Mayoux, 2009). Thus in order address these underlying discrepancies, it is necessary note the causes of prohibition of the poor families in the developing countries to exploit their negotiating powers. Because, women have close relations with the children, empowering women increases the chances to combating child labor.
In developing countries, the problems of child abuse as sources of labor and alternative income sources of income for their poor families, the NGOs fraternity has the obligation of cooperating with the host governments in situations that has no governmental influence and bound by voluntary obligations by participating firms in CSR operations. Assessment of CSR impact initiates is necessary to establish best ways to participate in CSR initiates. Stakeholders’ participation enables better co-operations in implementation of successful strategies. This enables them to establish appropriate global value chains and codes of conduct that regulate their operations with women playing a key role in fighting the rights of the children as they are close associates to the children. Hence voluntary participation in CSR by different institutions yield better results than operating under strict laws that underestimate the values of children.