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Open Access Publications from the University of California

In the Best Interest of Children: A Proposal for Corporate Guardians Ad Litem


Children are frequently implicated in and impacted by business activities, and as such, they are corporate stakeholders. Yet children do not have a direct voice in corporate decision-making. Other stakeholders—employees, customers, and suppliers—can and do influencec orporate strategy, but children lack the organization, standing, and legal capacity to assert similar influence. Instead of treating children as a coherent stakeholder group with rights and interests to be respected and supported, firms tend to view children only as potential victimsor coveted consumers. That view is short-sighted. Recent internationa lnorm-building related to children’s rights and business point toward a more comprehensive consideration of children’s interests in the broad range of business activities. Children are community members with long-term interests in the health and vitality of the communities and environments within which businesses operate. Firms employ children’s parents, and employment practices directly impact children’s development, educational opportunities, and quality of life. Children’s best interests substantially overlap with sustainable business practicesand implicate human rights generally. Therefore, firms must develop the expertise to identify and give voice to the best interests of children, yet most firms currently lack the capacity to do so.

This Article introduces the first corporate model that can effectively advocate for children’s best interests, which is an adapted version of the long-used guardian ad litem model used in family court proceedings. Courts appoint guardians ad litem when their decisions impact children, who cannot adequately represent themselves because they lack the sophistication or capacity to advocate or state their own best interests. Guardians ad litem serve as objective and impartial officials whose duty is to protect and advocate for the best interests ofthe children—and they serve only the children. This Article therefore asserts that companies should embed “corporate guardians ad litem” within their organizations to ensure that the best interests of children are considered in the development of corporate strategy and decision-making. The Article introduces three versions of the corporate guardian ad litem, namely, director-level, officer-level, and project-level.

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