Firms must do more to fight child labour -Norway fund

Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:36am EDT

* 44 pct of 527 firms score zero in child labour survey

* Disney, Ericsson, H&M, Intel, Motorola get top marks

OSLO, June 10 (Reuters) - Europe's largest equity investor urged companies to step up the fight against child labour on Friday and said nearly half of the 527 companies it surveyed were failing to address the issue properly.

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) manages Norway's half-a-trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund, which invests the Norwegian state's tax revenues from oil and gas activities abroad.

NBIM is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world along with those of the United Arab Emirates and China.

"In the three years since we began examining how companies manage child labour risks, we've seen an increase in the number of businesses that address these issues," Anne Kvam, global head of ownership policy at NBIM, said in a statement.

"However, the overall level of reporting on these issues is still far too low and companies need to step up efforts if the international community is to meet targets for eliminating hazardous child labour by 2016."

It said 232 out of 527 companies scored zero points out of a possible 10 in the survey, meaning they had failed on criteria such as having a child labour policy in place or having systems to prevent adverse effects of the firm's actions on children's welfare.

The average score was 2.2 out of a maximum 10 points.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that around 115 million children around the globe are involved in work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals, said the fund.

NBIM, which invests in around 8,700 firms worldwide, said it expects companies to prevent the worst forms of child labour and promote children's rights in their operations and supply chains.

Its evaluation is based solely on the companies' public reporting on child labour.

The nine companies that scored top marks for fighting child labour, NBIM said, were Walt Disney (DIS.N), Ericsson (ERICb.ST), Hennes & Mauritz (HMb.ST), Intel (INTC.O), Motorola (MMI.N) (MSI.N), Anglo American (AAL.L), Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH.N), Gildan Activewear (GIL.TO) and Xstrata XTA.L.

The fund did not name the companies that scored badly in the survey.

NBIM said the companies that got top marks took action to protect child rights in their operations and supply chains.

"They report on corporate action to prevent the worst forms of child labour, sustain a minimum age for labour and promote children's rights," the fund said. "They also provide information on how children's rights are governed at their company." (Reporting by Oslo newsroom; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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