Electronic companies have policies in place against using forced and child labor, but most fail to ensure that these guidelines are followed in all production stages, according to a Baptist World Aid Australia report.
These findings were part of a BWA Australia investigation of 56 electronic manufacturers.
Each received a grade from A to F based on “the strength of their labor rights management systems to mitigate the risk of forced labor, child labor and exploitation in the supply chain.”
Companies were analyzed based on their efforts to address slavery in three phases of the production: mineral extraction; smelting, refining and component manufacturing; and final production.
Each stage was graded based on four categories: policies regarding child and forced labor, traceability and transparency within the supply chains, monitoring and training efforts to curb slave labor, and the support of worker rights (including allowing collective bargaining and paying a living wage).
“Encouragingly, 64 percent of the companies that were researched across both reports showed some improvement and nine percent showed significant improvement” since a previous survey was conducted 18 months ago, the report noted.
“Despite progress, it is clear that overall, the industry still has a long way to go,” the report added. “No company was awarded a grade in the A range and the median grade for companies was a low C-minus.”
While abuses exist throughout the production process, “one of the worst forms of worker exploitation is occurring at the raw materials stage,” the report emphasized, because “the vast majority of electronics companies do not know where their raw materials are sourced.”
This was reflected in the low grades for all companies in the extraction process. No company’s source of raw materials paid a living wage to its employees, few had mechanisms in place to trace labor sources, and even fewer had any procedures for monitoring laborers used in extracted minerals required for their electronics.
Higher grades regarding curbing forced and child labor did not appear until the final stage of production.
While most companies had policies in place against abusive labor practices, efforts to ensure that suppliers and subcontractors throughout the production process followed these policies were comparably limited.
“The majority of companies did know their final stage manufacturers; however, only 10 percent had traced its inputs and no company had fully traced their raw materials,” the report explained. “If companies don’t know or don’t care who is producing their product, then they cannot ensure that workers are not being exploited. The low traceability deeper into the supply chain is particularly concerning as this is often where the most atrocious worker rights abuses occur.”
Child and forced labor was especially prevalent in China (“the global leader in electronics manufacturing”), Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia.
The highest-rated companies, which received a B+ rating, were Acer, Apple, BSH Group, LG, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung.
The lowest-rated companies, which received an F rating, were Hi-sense, Panasonic and Polaroid.
Other low-rated companies included Amazon Kindle, Canon, Fujitsu and Whirlpool (D-plus); Dyson and Sunbeam (D); and GoPro, Haier and SunBeam (D-minus).
Falling in the middle of the pack were Blackberry and Panasonic (B-minus); Dell, Hewlett Packard, Philips, SanDisk and Toshiba (B); Ericsson, Olympus and TomTom (C-plus).
The full report is available here.