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Intel fares well, Amazon poorly, in forced labour supply chain study

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Intel now has the most rigorous approach to routing out forced labour in its supply chains, overtaking companies including HP and Apple according to a report from KnowTheChain.

KnowTheChain’s latest report ranks 40 of the largest ICT businesses out of 100 based on their commitment to ensuring their supply chains are totally free of forced labour.

“While 35 out of 40 companies have published a commitment to address forced labour in their supply chains, there is often a disconnect between the policies and processes that companies have in place and the evidence that those are effectively implemented,” the report states.

“For example, 16 out of 40 companies say they have a grievance mechanism that is available to suppliers’ workers, yet only three publish data on the usage of those mechanisms.”

Intel leads the 2018 benchmark (75/100) having overtaken both Apple and HP since 2016 by taking measures such as disclosing a supplier list, introducing unannounced audits, and disclosing evidence of reimbursement of recruitment fees to suppliers’ workers.

Intel, HP, Apple and Hewlett Packard are the only four companies scoring above 70 out of 100 in the benchmark.

Although larger companies tend to be among the top scorers, Amazon, the third-largest benchmark company, is a significant outlier (32/100).

In these times of greater transparency, Broadcom has reduced its public disclosure dramatically, resulting in an 81 per cent reduction in their score compared to 2016.

Most of the top 40 global technology companies assessed in the study had made progress since the last report was published in 2016. However, the study found there was still room for improvement.

“The sector needs to advance their efforts further down the supply chain in order to truly protect vulnerable workers,” said Kilian Moote, project director of KnowTheChain, in a statement.

Intel, HP and Apple scored the highest on the list, which looked at factors including purchasing practices, monitoring and auditing processes. China-based BOE Technology Group and Taiwan’s Largan Precision came bottom.

Workers who make the components used by technology companies are often migrants vulnerable to exploitative working conditions, the report said.

About 25 million people globally were estimated to be trapped in forced labour in 2016, according to the International Labour Organization and rights group Walk Free Foundation.

Labourers in technology companies’ supply chains are sometimes charged high recruitment fees to get jobs, trapped in debt servitude, or deprived of their passports or other documents, the report said.

It highlighted a failure to give workers a voice through grievance mechanisms and tackle exploitative recruiting practices as the main areas of concern across the sector.

In recent years modern slavery has increasingly come under the global spotlight, putting ever greater regulatory and consumer pressure on firms to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour, child labour and other forms of slavery.

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