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Forced labour supply chains: HP tops ranking of analysis of IT sector

The first benchmark findings on the efforts of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies to mitigate forced labour in their supply chains have been published by KnowTheChain a project of Humanity United a US-based foundation tackling global injustice issues. KnowTheChain said while the ICT sector is showing some commitment and action to tackle labour issues, there is still far more to be done.

The research evaluated 20 global ICT companies – including Apple, HP and Canon – in seven categories. It gave the companies an average score of 39 out of a possible 100. KnowTheChain said that  major ICT companies have faced reputational risks through their supply chains following the uncovering of issues such as  hazardous conditions in cobalt mines and factory workers trapped in debt while forced labour in the private economy generated $150 billion in illegal profits every year.

The companies were selected on the basis of their size (market cap) and the extent to which they derive revenues from physical products as opposed to services. HP topped the rankings with an overall score of 72, followed by Apple with 62 and Intel with 59. The lowest scoring companies were Canon with 12, BOE Technology with 4 and Keyence with ).

KnowTheChain noted that many companies are now required to disclose steps they are taking to combat forced labour, under the UK Modern Slavery Act and the California Supply Chains Transparency Act. Eighteen of the 20 companies have a public commitment to addressing forced labour, showing that they recognize the importance of the issue, but far fewer have the policies and practices in place to do so KnowTheChain said.

The major area for improvement found in the benchmark is worker voice (average score of 16/100). The ICT sector needs to enable workers at the lowest levels of the supply chain to communicate their concerns, represent their own interests, and advocate for their rights KnowTheChain said. However, the research found that companies are disclosing too little information on how they ensure workers have a voice throughout their supply chain, including ensuring the right to freedom of association. However, Microsoft is one company that has started to tackle the issue after it reported recently launching an anonymous and factory-independent worker grievance tool.

“While we recognise that some companies are trying to meaningfully address the issue of forced labour in their supply chains, this report demonstrates that far more can and should be done,” said Ed Marcum, Humanity United managing director. “For investors and consumers, this report also shines a light on those lagging companies who are doing little to fulfil their ethical and legal obligations.”

Further benchmarks are to be released by KnowTheChain on the food & beverage, and apparel & footwear sectors in the coming year.

What do you think?