GE tackles human rights issues

27 July 2011

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27 July 2011 | Angeline Albert

GE uncovered 12,500 instances of poor working conditions at its approved suppliers during audits last year.

These included human rights violations and health and safety hazards, according to the multinational’s 2010 citizenshipreport, released this week.

“GE expects suppliers to obey laws that require them to treat workers fairly, provide a safe and healthy working environment, and protect environmental quality,” said the report.

To tackle the issue, it hosted a summit in Shanghai late last year that invited sourcing quality and audit teams, suppliers, and government officials to share experiences and discuss the challenges of ensuring better working conditions.

The firm added that as of 15 February this year, its approved suppliers have resolved more than 95 per cent of all such findings it had made since 2002. GE requires suppliers to address all findings “in a reasonable period” and monitors the progress made by the vendor in an automated database.

Last year, the conglomerate also identified “human rights champions” at each GE business, to establish human rights risk assessment processes and report any risks and plans.

”Human rights concerns touch GE’s sphere of influence in many ways, whether they involve issues with suppliers or the intersection of our water business with the human right to that resource,” said the report.

“In 2008, GE expanded its supplier review programme to encompass freedom of association, discrimination and harassment in line with GE’s statement of principles on human rights. The company also conducted a programme review and is currently piloting programme refinements designed to encourage GE’s suppliers to adopt their own management approach to ethical business issues.”

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