Supply Chain
Intel, HP, Apple Named Leaders in Taking Action Against Forced Labor in Tech

KnowTheChain has released its second ranking of the top 40 global information and communications technology (ICT) companies on their efforts and disclosure related to eradicating forced labor. A follow-up to its initial 2016 assessment, the new benchmark shows that most companies have taken steps to improve over the last two years, especially Intel, which overtook both Apple and HP Inc. for the top spot.

“It is encouraging to see that a few leading companies are starting to take steps to ensure that workers in their supply chains are aware of their rights and have access to effective grievance mechanisms, something we have not seen in the previous benchmarks,” said Felicitas Weber, KnowTheChain Project Lead with the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. “However, given the continued exploitation of workers in electronic supply chains, companies need to take much stronger action and use their means and leverage to ensure workers’ voices are heard and that responsible recruitment practices are in place across their supply chains.”

KnowTheChain asserts that despite how technology companies are bringing the world together, they are failing to connect with the workers in their own supply chains to address forced labor risks and protect vulnerable workers. The 2018 ICT Benchmark and its accompanying findings report reveal that the average benchmark score was 32 out of 100 possible points, with three-quarters of the evaluated companies scoring below 50 out of 100.

Intel scored highest (75/100), followed by HP Inc. (72/100), Apple (71/100) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (71/100). Samsung Electronics (62/100), Microsoft (61/100) and Cisco Systems (51/100) were also in the top quartile.

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Several equally well-known brands did not do as well. Notably, Amazon (32/100), Nintendo (25/100) and Canon (16/100) scored particularly poorly, while Hitachi (39/100), Nokia (38/100), Texas Instruments (38/100), NVIDIA (35/100) and Foxconn (33/100) didn’t score much better.

Issue areas that have the most impact on workers’ lives, such as worker voice and recruitment, are among the lowest scoring themes for all companies. The report urges companies to engage with workers, give them access to effective grievance mechanisms, and tackle the exploitation of migrant workers by implementing ethical recruitment practices and repaying workers for recruitment fees they may have paid.

While the top scoring companies have strong practices in place regarding their first-tier suppliers, their efforts are not being matched by some of the world’s largest suppliers: six companies (Amphenol, Keyence, Microchip Technology, Corning, Broadcom, and BOE) who supply to the largest ICT companies in the benchmark scored below 10/100, thus taking limited steps to address forced labor in their own supply chains. Broadcom’s score actually decreased by 81 percent compared to the 2016 benchmark, since the company dramatically reduced its public disclosure.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to measure companies’ progress against where they were two years ago,” said Kilian Moote, Project Director of KnowTheChain. “It’s encouraging that companies are starting to address forced labor. But this benchmark shows that the sector needs to advance their efforts further down the supply chain in order to truly protect vulnerable workers.”

The companies were selected for the benchmark based on their size (market capitalization) and the extent to which they derive revenues from physical products, where the risks of forced labor are high. KnowTheChain assessed information available on each company’s website, additional public disclosure that companies provided in response to engagement questions, and forced labor allegations as well as companies’ responses. Sustainalytics supported the development of the company list and the benchmark methodology.

KnowtheChain plans to release two additional benchmarks this year – updating the rankings for the food and beverage and apparel and footwear sectors.

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