makeITfair priorities for electronics companies

makeITfair has established a set of priorities for its three-year programme to make the electronics industry fairer for workers everywhere. By focusing on these priorities makeITfair is driving a powerful agenda for change that will help to improve human rights, workers’ rights and sound environmental practices in the product life cycle of consumer electronics around the globe. It’s not just the electronics companies that can make big changes. Consumers and especially big purchasers − including public procurers and large retailers such as network providers − can also make a big difference.

makeITfair priorities for electronics companies

makeITfair’s priorities for electronics companies:

  • Priorities for production
  • Priorities on extractives
  • Priorities on e-waste
  • Priorities for mobile network operators
  • Priorities for public procurers


Priorities for production



Implement decent working conditions


The main priority for makeITfair is decent working conditions in the manufacturing of consumer electronics, with particular attention on freedom of association, living wages and precarious employment (including migrant labour).

All manufacturing of electronic devices should be carried out with respect for workers’ rights, as defined by the conventions and recom¬mendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

makeITfair calls on electronics companies to implement ILO’s core labour standards:

  • freedom of association
  • right to collective bargaining
  • no discrimination of any kind
  • no forced or slave labour
  • a minimum employment age

makeITfair is also calling on companies to follow several other generally accepted labour standards in their supply chain, including: health and safety measures; a maximum working week of 48 hours and voluntary overtime of 12 hours maximum; a right to a living wage; and the establishment of an employment relationship.

 In particular, makeITfair is asking that:

  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining should be respected, as these are the most important tools to enable decent working conditions to develop.
  • Contract labour and other short-term labour arrangements, including migrant workers, should never be used to undermine workers’ rights and working conditions. Contract and/or short-term workers should have the same working conditions, rights and benefits as permanent workers and the right to a permanent employment contract after a certain time period.
  • Workers should be able to earn a living wage for their family within normal working hours (no more than 48 hours per week).

Purchasing practices should not undermine decent working conditions



Decent working conditions must be integrated into a company’s management structure and business practices, including purchasing practices. Purchasing practices should enable and support living wages and humane working hours and should not hamper the implementation of overall good labour standards.

Implement supply chain responsibility



Electronics companies at the top of the supply chain are responsible for implementing at least the minimum labour standards (as described above) and environmental standards down the whole supply chain. Companies should adopt a code of conduct and communicate the binding requirements to suppliers. They should also monitor its implementation and make sure that the implementation is independently verified by a credible third party. There should be, among others, auditing on all issues, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, and workers’ interviews should be conducted off-site.

When violations are found, companies should engage in remediation efforts. There should be an efficient complaint mechanism for stakeholders along the supply chain. Working in a multi-stakeholder setting is very important. Civil society organisations (including trade unions) and workers should be included in these efforts.


Priorities on extractives



Electronics companies should adopt and follow makeITfair’s ‘List of principles on the extractive phase of the electronics supply chain’. They should focus attention on recognising responsibility right down to the mine level, increasing traceability and applying due diligence with regard to conflict areas.

Since the electronics industry as a whole consumes significant quantities of metals, the industry should recognise that responsibility for their supply chain extends to the sourcing and mining of metals and primary metal processing.

  • Electronics companies should map their supply chain down to the extractives phase. They should set up a system to periodically update the supply chain for each of the metals used. makeITfair calls on companies to identify the smelters in particular, as they are key actors in supply networks. End-user companies should require smelters to respect international standards for human rights and the environment, and these requirements should be demanded by the mining companies and traders they are sourcing from.
  • Electronics companies should apply due diligence when sourcing minerals from conflict areas, and they should adhere to relevant guidelines. A due diligence process for conflict areas should include tracing of minerals down to the mine level and setting up systems to detect whether any purchasing is done from mines controlled by armed groups (including being taxed by armed groups along the trading routes). Actions taken should include engaging proactively with local actors and striving for continuous improvements, rather than applying boycotts as a first step. Ultimately, involvement of either rebel groups or state army actors in the mining industry is not acceptable.


Priorities on e-waste



Electronics producers should take responsibility



Electronics companies should take the following responsibilities concerning resource use and the recycling of electronic products:

  • They should proactively phase out hazardous substances and develop electronics that are more ecologically and socially sustainable, maximising the use of recycled materials and minimising the use of scarce resources in electronics.
  • They should take financial responsibility for the collection and recycling of waste stemming from their own products in cooperation with operators. They should also adopt financial incentives to make take-back systems work.


Government action is needed

Government action is needed in order to tackle the e-waste problem adequately and to create the right conditions for producers to take their responsibilities seriously. At this point in time, figures on collection, recycling and trade flows of e-waste and used electronics are confusing, which makes it difficult to identify an effective intervention strategy.

makeITfair calls on governments to take the following actions:

  • Set minimum requirements for used electronic products intended for export, monitor destinations of used electronics, and legislate that exporters of used electronics must obtain export permission from the authorities and be in possession of relevant paperwork.
  • Establish a national e-waste authority that monitors e-waste collection, recycling and export flows. This authority should proactively identify the loopholes in the national e-waste system, by examining whether the producers comply fully with their responsibility and local control at recycling stations are sufficient. Communication between the main countries that receive e-waste and European countries should be increased to create a greater oversight of the magnitude of the e-waste trade. This would allow rapid identification of new e-waste hotspots, as well as information sharing about illegal exporters.

Priorities for mobile network operators



New marketing strategies to improve sustainability

Mobile network operators should develop new strategies that focus on marketing the services they provide instead of focusing on selling mobile phones. This could be achieved by:
  • Making SIM-only subscriptions more visible to consumers by marketing them more actively than the option of subscription renewal in combination with a new mobile phone.
  • Demanding that customers should hand in old phones as a condition for receiving a new mobile phone with a subscription renewal.
  • Offering used phones for a reduced price as a regular service and arranging for a repair service for mobile phones.


Joint campaign on mobile phone recycling



Mobile network operators should work towards a joint campaign to raise awareness about the existence of recycling opportunities for mobile phones among consumers. Many consumers are still unaware that they could make a valuable contribution to protecting scarce resources by recycling their old phones.


Working towards fair and green mobile phones



Mobile network operators play a crucial role, as they provide mobile phones to many consumers. Therefore mobile network operators should be committed to creating a supply chain in which phones are produced under decent working and good environmental standards:

  • By making manufacturers commit to developing fair and green alternatives.
  • By working together with the manufacturers to monitor compliance with labour and environmental standards and to verify this through regular, credible audits of the suppliers by an independent third party.
  • By enabling compliance with these standards through fair purchasing practices.
  • If a mobile network operator has its own mobile phone brand, they should take responsibility for their own supply chain and provide phones that are environmentally sustainable and are produced under decent working conditions.
  • By giving detailed and easily accessible information to consumers on the best available environmental alternatives.

Priorities for public procurers



Bidders should respect decent working conditions



Public procurers should ask all contract bidders to respect decent working conditions in the production process of electronics. Decent working conditions should follow the ILO core conventions and extra provisions as described in the ‘priorities for production’ above. The purchaser should ask for continuous improvements and routines for achieving the demands, rather than a ‘guarantee’ of full compliance throughout the supply chain.


Bidders should provide full transparency throughout their supply chain



Public institutions should ask bidders to provide information about the exact location of the production facilities of its first-tier suppliers, as well as of the facilities of the major manufacturers of components.

Establish a thorough follow-up mechanism and verification process



Public procurers must establish a thorough follow-up mechanism. This should include asking the contracting parties to give an account of their routines for continuous improvements to fulfil the requirements for decent working conditions (with documentation), as well as spot check verification by an independent third party along the production chain.


Avoid contradictory purchasing practices



To avoid contradictory purchasing practices that hamper the respect of decent working conditions, public institutions should make sure that delivery times and other purchasing requirements are reasonable.