Report Announcement: Business Case for Engaging in Early Childhood Development

GBC-Education has announced a report which details why businesses should invest in early childhood development (ECD), a holistic approach encompassing child and maternal health, early learning, childcare, and nutrition throughout a period spanning from pregnancy to primary school — the most critical time period for a child’s physical, cognitive, linguistic, and socio-emotional development. Not only do quality ECD programs and services lead to better school readiness and academic achievement, they help develop essential skills that are key to increased productivity and success in the workplace.

“If we are serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and giving every child the best start in life, we must do more to make sure that every child — no matter who they are or where they were born — receives these critical interventions in the early years,” said GBC-Education Executive Chair Sarah Brown.

Investing early makes sense from a scientific, economic, and equity point of view. For businesses, the earlier the investment  in a child’s growth and development, the higher the rate of return, as early investments offer the best opportunity for maximum impact, both for the child and for the business, while simultaneously reducing the high costs of future interventions.

Though research has demonstrated the substantial benefits to children from comprehensive ECD programs — especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds — funding remains abysmally low. In 2014, less than 50 percent of children globally and a mere 17 percent of children in low-income countries were enrolled in pre-primary school. The private sector can help to fill this gap and engage in the early years, as governments are unable to do this alone.

“Child education should not be seen as a social development issue but rather one that shapes the path of economic growth and development. We therefore need to significantly increase our investments in child education, as children are the future of the world,” says President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank.

Sabrina Premji, Co-founder and Chief Exploration Officer of #smartinvestment Network member Kidogo echos this sentiment in the report and says, “If we want our economies and industries to thrive, we need a pipeline of human capital that can think critically and problem-solve.”

How Businesses Benefit from Engaging in ECD

Not only is engaging in ECD beneficial for society, but for business as well. Investments in ECD yield high returns, evening the playing field for all children, and developing the skilled workforce required of a productive 21st-century society. Businesses benefit from investing in ECD through:

High Rates of Returns: In the short-term, every $1 dollar invested in an early learning program generates approximately $2 in returns from the sale of local good and services. This number increases in the long-term with a return on investment of up to 10:1 for disadvantaged children.

Development of a Skilled Workforce with 21st Century Skills: Children who have graduated from early childhood programs experience significant gains cognitively, tend to remain in the school system longer, and earn better grades. By engaging in ECD, businesses cultivate strong minds and strong bodies and a talented future generation with skills relevant to a 21st century workforce.

Ensuring Economic and Social Equity, and Gender Equality: Businesses’ role in promoting and investing in ECD ensures that children from marginalized populations receive equitable opportunities for health, cognitive, and behavioral development, thereby leveling the playing field.

Business Opportunities to Engage in ECD

Businesses can engage in and support ECD through the provision of financial and in-kind contributions, expertise and the development of and access to ECD friendly employee policies and programs.

Invest: Provide financial and in-kind support for ECD initiatives
Businesses can contribute to ECD programs through financial contributions and/or leveraging their core assets, such as time, services, volunteers, and leadership.

Enable: Implement ECD-friendly employee policies and programs
By providing employees ECD services, like child care for employees or breastfeeding spaces for mothers, businesses develop a workplace culture that supports working parents and their children.

Empower: Promote healthy choices and access to ECD services for employees and communities
Engaging with employees to share best ECD practices and promote programs leads to well informed and healthier communities in which businesses can thrive.

Champion: Use your voice, influence, specific expertise, and/or relevant market to support ECD
Businesses can mobilize for ECD simply by using their voice and making the business case, be it through social media, blogs, or speaking engagements, and by partnering with community groups and government who are also investing in ECD programs.

Efforts are currently underway from the private sector to ensure that children have access to quality ECD programs. Businesses across industries are engaging in the early years, and it is the intention of this report that others will consider additional or new investments in ECD, with a diversity of actors gaining further understanding of the ways in which the private sector can engage.

“Investing early in all aspects of quality health and cognitive development for children is the single greatest thing we can do to build an equitable world,” says Kolleen Bouchane, GBC-Education’s Director of Advocacy and Policy. There is no time to waste.

In September 2016, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity will release its final report making an evidence based case for investment in education. GBC-Education’s report on ECD has been formally submitted to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity for consideration during their upcoming meeting to be held on July 4 in the hopes that its findings will be adopted in the final report.


Contact us at [email protected] to learn more how the private sector can contribute to ECD and to share your work with us so that we can continue to learn from and share best practice.