CSR Issues in the ICT Hardware Manufacturing Sector
This report examines the ICT sector, a relatively young sector that often portrays itself with a clean image of highly skilled jobs and ‘clean rooms’ where professionals work in a controlled and dust-free environment. Who could imagine that, behind this radiant representation of young professionals building the industry of the future, we fi nd poisonous production sites were workers assemble computers during 12-hour workdays, sometimes for months on end without a single day’s rest? Since its beginning in the early 1980s, the sector has experienced rapid growth characterised by strong competition in which the brand name companies are increasingly concentrating on their core competencies such as R&D, marketing, and branding to stay ahead. Production and, increasingly, design and supply chain management are contracted out, resulting in complicated production chains and responsibilities. In this report SOMO focuses on an industry that has continuously shifted to countries that are perceived as cheaper, producing predominantly in export zones where labour rights and environmental issues have no priority. Research done for SOMO in China and the Philippines shows that computers are produced under endemic overtime, while a lack of unions and barriers to organising means that the workers cannot negotiate improvements. Workers are hired on short term contracts for years, blacklisted and subjected to discriminatory application processes. The extensive use of toxic chemicals in the production of ICT devices creates huge problems during the entire lifecycle of ICT products. There are subsequent problems with occupational health and safety in the production facilities as well as environmental and community problems in the vicinity of the factories and around the waste disposal sites.