Christopher Kip, UNICEF
Ahead of this year’s European Roundtable conference we will be interviewing speakers on key issues in the palm oil sector and how we can make change possible to deliver on commitments to 100% CSPO take up in Europe by 2020.
Chris works in UNICEF’s Child Rights & Business Team, supporting the implementation of UNICEF’s work on children’s rights in global supply chains. He is based in Geneva, leading the work with international brands and local producers on child rights in business practices across various supply chains, including palm oil. Before joining UNICEF, he worked as a consultant supporting companies to integrate human rights due diligence into their sustainability strategies and activities.
- What is UNICEF’s role in the movement towards sustainable palm oil?
The palm oil sector has significant impact on children’s rights – both positive and negative. Business has enormous influence to improve the rights of children, in addition to their responsibility to avoid causing harm. Decent working conditions for parents, adequate living conditions for workers and their families, access to basic services for affected communities are just some of the examples how business impact children. UNICEF is engaging with companies (international brands and local producers), governments and industry initiatives in order to improve the understanding, commitment and action to implement better business practices that respect and support the rights of workers, families and children – based on the Children’s Rights and Business Principles.
- How is UNICEF working with the industry and along the supply chain to protect and improve children’s rights?
UNICEF is bringing together a wide range of actors – including international brands, palm oil producers, governments and civil society representatives – in order to address and improve the situation of children affected by palm oil. UNICEF is supporting the development of better standards and business practices for working parents and children. In Indonesia, for example, UNICEF is working with the Government and key industry stakeholders – including RSPO – to roll-out a child rights and business programme that raises awareness and supports implementation of action to improve respect for the rights of working parents and children affected by the palm oil sector.
- What are the main challenges faced in relation to child labour on and around palm oil plantations?
Child labour – including in the palm oil sector – is frequently a ‘hidden’ phenomenon that is not discovered in traditional audits or labour inspections. Since child labour is typically a result of broader child rights violations, business must take a “beyond-audit approach” and tackle the root-causes. For example, low wages and deep-rooted poverty among working parents can be a key contributor to child labour. Social exclusion, lack of birth certificates, limited access to quality education can be additional drivers, as well as lack of childcare support, which can force children to drop out of school to look after their siblings.
- What progress can you see being made by the palm oil industry to support children’s’ rights and their family’s livelihoods?
International buyers and local producers increasingly place greater emphasis on the social impact of palm oil in relation to workers and communities, including children’s rights. Pioneer companies are starting to go beyond focusing on workplace issues, exploring how to improve the livelihoods of workers, their families and local communities. This can include issues such as fair wages, better working conditions, adequate living conditions (including access to healthcare, nutrition, safe water, sanitation and hygiene), childcare support, and improving access to quality education for workers and families. Challenges remain, however, to ensure businesses understand and act upon their responsibility to uphold human rights in their core practices, rather than seeking to offset adverse impacts through philanthropic support.
- What key points would you like to see being discussed during the Children’s Rights in the Palm Oil Sector session, and also on the Human Rights panel debate?
UNICEF is inviting the palm oil industry to join an open debate about the key challenges and opportunities faced by the sector in relation to children’s rights; a debate shedding some light on the root-causes and systemic challenges that lead to labour rights violations and adverse human rights impacts on workers and families. The industry needs a collaborative and transparent debate in which stakeholders discuss promising approaches and share experience on implementing better business practices, industry standards and government policies that improve the situation of workers, families and wider communities.