Close up of a circuit board © 123RF
Close up of a circuit board © 123RF

Electronics firms must improve supply chain transparency

15 March 2016

The electronics industry in Australia has not made sufficient progress in implementing steps to protect its workers in the supply chain, according to an aid organisation.

More than 50 electronics companies surveyed by Baptist World Aid Australia could not provide any evidence that workers in their supply chain are being paid a living wage, and none had fully traced their raw materials.

The Electronics Industry Trends report graded 56 companies on the practices and policies they have in place to mitigate the risk of forced labour, child labour and exploitation.

Almost two-thirds (64%) had showed some improvement on the previous survey in 2014, no companies had scored a top A grade. The median grade for companies was C.

Companies are awarded grades based on 61 assessment criteria across the four categories of policies, traceability and transparency, monitoring and training and worker rights.

“These four pieces of the system when brought together and implemented well, should enable improvements in working conditions and reduce the risk and incidence of modern slavery,” the report read.

It found while the majority of companies had a code of conduct that included the right to collective bargaining, only 7% of companies could demonstrate manufacturing facilities with collective bargaining agreements in place.

Only one company (Intel) was able to fully trace all of its smelters and components manufacturers. While the majority of companies knew their final stage manufacturers, only 10% had traced their final manufacturers’ inputs.

The report stated the low traceability deeper into the supply chain is “particularly concerning as this is often where the most atrocious worker rights abuses occur”.

“Forced labour, child labour and exploitation remain as significant problems in the supply chain of the electronics industry,” said Gershon Nimbalker, advocacy manager at Baptist World Aid Australia.

“This is the most valuable industry in the world, worth in the trillions. If anyone can afford to ensure they have an ethical supply chain, it’s our big tech companies.”

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