Electronics sustainability initiatives' responses to research disappointPhoto: Courtesy of the Fair Computer-website

Critical statement by Bread for All and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior addressing the electronics sector's sustainability initiatives concerning working Conditions in China

Electronics sustainability initiatives' responses to research disappointPhoto: Courtesy of the Fair Computer-website

In May 2008, Bread for All (BFA) and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) published the ‘One Year Follow Up Report on Working Conditions in China’s Electronic Hardware Sector’. This report includes a critical evaluation of the feedback given by companies to the initial ‘High Tech – No Rights?’ report published in 2007.

The follow up report was again shared with all companies that were subject of the research carried out by BFA and SACOM, as well as with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), the industry’s initiatives for a code of conduct and supply chain management.

Fairly soon after the release of the report, GeSI brought out a two-page reaction outlining the supply chain management tools GeSI (and EICC) is developing and pointing out its collaboration with a number of stakeholders. This reaction was welcomed by BFA and SACOM. Read closely, however, the GeSI response is a mere monologue. GeSI does not make any effort to respond to the challenges that are raised in the report by BFA and SACOM. GeSI simply reiterates that it’s doing a great job.

Then, on August 12, 2008, EICC sent a one-page response to BFA and SACOM, arguing that EICC “has acted upon the three primary recommendations within the report”. EICC declares to want to see “additional improvements” and states to believe that “the tools in place or under development to support our coalition’s code of ethical conduct are the appropriate route to help our members collectively drive the changes we seek in the electronics supply chain.”

BFA and SACOM welcome this EICC response. BFA and SACOM particularly hope that the EICC phrase "Our coalition believes that when such a study is presented by our stakeholders, we must consider its implications on the priorities and continued work of the EICC” will prove to be more than a hollow promise.

BFA and SACOM are of the opinion that, since many brand name companies have common suppliers, it is crucial that they engage in a coherent manner and on a common basis to improve the working conditions in the factories that were covered by the ‘High Tech - No Rights?’-reports. According to BFA and SACOM more often than not this is not the case, unfortunately. BFA and SACOM stress that no more than a few companies, have made the effort to provide concrete answers to the questions raised in the reports. Hewlett Packard is one of the few to have come up with substantial information.

BFA and SACOM express the hope that EICC’s statement is the foreboding of higher levels of collaboration among EICC member companies.

So far, the big issue, that is the continuing gaping gap between the implementation of the brands' CSR polices and the often appalling working conditions on the ground, has not been adequately addressed by GeSI or by EICC.