The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has teamed up with the United Nations Children’s Fund in an effort to show companies how to improve children’s rights around the world, while also expanding its efforts to educate accountants in the U.S. and abroad.
A new report, “Reporting on Children’s Rights,” provides companies with guidance on managing their impact on the rights of children. Using examples of good practice, the paper demonstrates how some companies are working to enhance children’s rights across the globe.
“There are few issues that can match abuse of children in its explosive power to damage a corporate brand,” said ACCA chief executive Helen Brand in a statement. “More importantly, the quality of reporting on the issue is a key component in supporting the rights of children across the globe. Despite this, evidence of systematic good practice from companies whose activities affect children is thin on the ground.”
Brand believes children’s rights will not be achieved until companies take steps to deliver publicly available reporting on their policies, targets and record on the issue. “Clearly, understanding and reporting on key labor practices with a company is an important step when assessing the potential impact a business has on children’s rights,” she said. “For example, if a company’s business model is highly dependent on subcontracted labor in countries such as Bangladesh, so the risk of child labor issues may be greater. Just like in any area of the business, targets and key performance indicators should be set for achieving children’s rights objectives, and the brave decision should be made to disclose these publicly. Even more importantly, companies should ensure that remediation plans are also publicly available so that it is clear to those who matter what to do if an abuse of children’s rights has taken place.”
The report describes five key areas that companies should consider when reporting on their impact on children’s rights: context and risk, policies and governance, integration and action, monitoring and review, and remediation.
“There is no issue that is more central to corporate sustainability than children’s rights,” said Leah Kreitzman, director of public affairs at Unicef UK. “Children are key stakeholders of business—as consumers, family members of employees, young workers, and as future employees and business leaders. They have survival and development needs that differ from those of adults and are particularly vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse. Businesses therefore need to give children specific attention to ensure that they are managing their potential impacts upon them. Many companies are starting to do this and the huge potential of the private sector to positively impact children is starting to be realized.”
While working on international issues such as children’s rights, ACCA has been expanding its outreach to accountants in the U.S. and abroad. Stephen Heathcote, executive director of markets at ACCA, visited New York last week to talk about some of the London-based organization’s latest efforts. He noted there is a real desire for accounting students in the U.S. to study internationally, and at the same time the number of international students at U.S. schools in accounting and other subjects now exceeds 1 million. Many of them are coming from China.
“There are a lot of students who want to come to the U.S. and study accounting,” he told me. “Then they go back to China and get their ACCA.”
The ACCA has agreements with Pace University in New York City and American University in Washington, D.C., two cities that have great appeal to international students, allowing them to study and prepare for the ACCA exams. ACCA USA is hosting a panel discussion on cybercrime at Pace University on Thursday.
In addition to those two universities, ACCA USA CEO Warner Johnston said the organization is also in talks with schools in Florida and Georgia to provide similar partnerships.
David Grint, director of strategy and brand at ACCA, noted that the courses enable students to learn real-world skills as accountants.
The ACCA has also been expanding its online training efforts, partnering with edX, a massive open online course provider, to provide accounting courses on the Web via a service known as ACCA-X. Heathcote said 50,000 people have registered for courses on ACCA-X so far, including 7,000 in the U.S. The system enables accounting students to learn not only through their computers, but also on tablets and smartphones while they are traveling to whatever far-flung destinations they are visiting.