A 20 year collaboration for children’s rights

International furniture giant IKEA has been at the forefront of corporate work on human rights and sustainability for decades. Since the early 1990s, IKEA has been working with Save the Children on a range of projects addressing education for children, children in emergencies, and protection of children from child labour.

"Sustainability is not a ‘nice to do’, it is a ‘must do,’” says Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA Group. “When we can care for our people, the people in our value chain and take care of the environment that provides a lot of our raw material and the impact in our customers’ homes – only then will we be able to continue to grow as a business.”

Steve is a strong advocate for the Children’s Rights and Business Principles.

“I think the Children’s Rights and Business Principles are really good at simplifying what businesses need to do,” he says. “It can sound abstract to some businesses but the principles are a well thought through checklist for how you can lead your business. We helped participate in the drafting of the principles to make sure they were business relevant and accessible for business.”

As the former head of his own environmental charity, Steve understands that sustainability can be difficult for companies to fold into their everyday operations and core business. He feels the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBP) enables companies to break down how children's rights affect their business.

“What are you doing in a marketing context for instance. It doesn’t have to be hugely involved - you can build it into your working procedures, so that you just stop and think about how you lead your business in a very practical way. You have to make these things practical and accessible to people, and the CRBP does that.”

Even small businesses should think about this, he says.

“You still have employees, you still have customers, you still have an impact on the world. You don’t have to do everything at once. You can just take one or two positive actions that would really make a difference. And you will find it’s a fantastic thing for your business.”

He also understands that addressing children's rights can help businesses meet their corporate goals in a more sustainable way. “Children are your future employees, your future customers – maybe your customers of today already So spending some thinking about how you are helping to create a better society for kids today and tomorrow, will make you a stronger and better business.”