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Child Labor and Multinational Conduct: A Comparison of International Business andStakeholder Codes


  • Ans Kolk


  • Rob van Tulder


Increasing attention to the issue of child labor has been reflected in codes of conduct that emerged in the past decade in particular. This paper examines the way in which multinationals, business associations, governmental and non-governmental organizations deal with child labor in their codes. With a standardized framework, it analyzes 55 codes drawn up by these different actors to influence firms’ external, societal behavior. The exploratory study helps to identify the main issues related to child labor and the use of voluntary instruments such as codes of conduct. Apart from a specific indication of the topics covered by the code, especially minimum-age requirements, this also includes monitoring systems and monitoring parties. Most important to company codes are the sanctions imposed on business partners in case of non-compliance. Severe measures may be counterproductive as they do not change the underlying causes of child labor and can worsen the situation of the child workers by driving them to more hazardous work in the informal sector. This underlines the importance of a broad rather than a restrictive approach to child labor in codes of conduct. The paper discusses the implications of this study, offering suggestions for future research. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Suggested Citation

  • Ans Kolk & Rob van Tulder, 2002. "Child Labor and Multinational Conduct: A Comparison of International Business andStakeholder Codes," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 291-301, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:36:y:2002:i:3:p:291-301
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1014009313508

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Catherine C Langlois & Bodo B Shlegemilch, 1990. "Do Corporate Codes of Ethics Reflect National Character? Evidence from Europe and the United States," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 21(4), pages 519-539, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Justin Tan & Anna Tan, 2012. "Business Under Threat, Technology Under Attack, Ethics Under Fire: The Experience of Google in China," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 110(4), pages 469-479, November.
    2. Silviya Dimitrova, 2017. "Ethical Issues in Multinational Companies' Business," Izvestia Journal of the Union of Scientists - Varna. Economic Sciences Series, Union of Scientists - Varna, Economic Sciences Section, issue 1, pages 224-236, November.
    3. Daniel Arenas & Pablo Rodrigo, 2016. "On Firms and the Next Generations: Difficulties and Possibilities for Business Ethics Inquiry," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 133(1), pages 165-178, January.
    4. Islam, Muhammad Azizul & van Staden, Chris J., 2018. "Social movement NGOs and the comprehensiveness of conflict mineral disclosures: evidence from global companies," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 1-19.
    5. Ahmed, Syed Shujaat & Haider, Waqas & Khan, Dilawar, 2012. "Determinants of Child Labor in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: An Econometric Analysis," MPRA Paper 73526, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. John E. Katsos & Yass AlKafaji, 2019. "Business in War Zones: How Companies Promote Peace in Iraq," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 155(1), pages 41-56, March.
    7. Sadaat Ali Yawar & Stefan Seuring, 2017. "Management of Social Issues in Supply Chains: A Literature Review Exploring Social Issues, Actions and Performance Outcomes," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 141(3), pages 621-643, March.
    8. Mujtaba Ahsan, 2020. "Entrepreneurship and Ethics in the Sharing Economy: A Critical Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 161(1), pages 19-33, January.
    9. Jay Joseph & John E. Katsos & Mariam Daher, 0. "Local Business, Local Peace? Intergroup and Economic Dynamics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-20.
    10. Katsos, John E. & Fort, Timothy L., 2016. "Leadership in the promotion of peace: Interviews with the 2015 Business for Peace honorees," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 59(5), pages 463-470.
    11. Victor Oltra & Jaime Bonache & Chris Brewster, 2013. "A New Framework for Understanding Inequalities Between Expatriates and Host Country Nationals," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 115(2), pages 291-310, June.
    12. Salla Laasonen & Martin Fougère & Arno Kourula, 2012. "Dominant Articulations in Academic Business and Society Discourse on NGO–Business Relations: A Critical Assessment," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 109(4), pages 521-545, September.
    13. Dong Hoang, 2019. "Labour Standards in the Global Supply Chain: Workers’ Agency and Reciprocal Exchange Perspective," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(2), pages 1-25, May.
    14. Trifković, Neda, 2017. "Spillover Effects of International Standards: Working Conditions in the Vietnamese SMEs," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 79-101.
    15. Krista Bondy, 2007. "Evaluating the potential effectiveness of codes: the statement strength evaluation method (SSEM)," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 14(1), pages 1-15, February.
    16. Frances Bowen, 2019. "Marking Their Own Homework: The Pragmatic and Moral Legitimacy of Industry Self-Regulation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 156(1), pages 257-272, April.
    17. Soo-Haeng Cho & Xin Fang & Sridhar Tayur & Ying Xu, 2019. "Combating Child Labor: Incentives and Information Disclosure in Global Supply Chains," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 21(3), pages 692-711, July.


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