Electronics Watch is a new initiative that provides European public sector buyers that procure ICT hardware with the opportunity to use their buying power/market share for the improvement of the lives of electronics workers in low-wage production countries. Electronics Watch is an independent monitoring organization working to achieve respect for labour rights in the global electronics industry through socially responsible public purchasing in Europe.
The electronics industry is one of the fastest growing global industries with an expected yearly growth of 7% between 2013-2015 (source). It is widely known and accepted now that despite the modern and clean image the industry has, the working conditions are often appalling.
Current audits are failing
Existing approaches are clearly failing to combat poverty and human rights abuses in the electronics industry. Companies are struggling to live up to their responsibility to protect human rights. Corporate codes of conduct and social auditing policies and practices fail in transparency and effectiveness.
Currently there is no comprehensive, credible and independent monitoring system for the electronics industry that involves workers and local civil society organisations. Public sector buyers with a will to act on labour rights issues do not have an effective way to do so as they have insufficient leverage over brands, companies and manufacturers.
Consolidating the power of public buyers
Local governments and universities are large-scale consumers of electronics products such as computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and other telecommunication equipment, not forgetting printers, copiers, servers and so on. Together public buyers have considerable buying power. If they join forces they can also create significant leverage to influence structural improvement in the industry.
The aim is to have Electronics Watch up and running by mid-2015, with a first group of 50 public sector buyers from across Europe. Southern NGOs and trade unions, as well as European public sector buyers and experts will have an equal say in the governance of the new organisation.