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Electronics Industry Will Conduct Shadow Audits to Root Out Forced Labor in Malaysia

Image Credit: Flickr, Khalzuri Yazid

The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), a nonprofit coalition of electronics companies dedicated to supply chain responsibility, has announced that it will conduct shadow audits and increase its industry and government engagement in Malaysia to further combat forced labor.

The EICC says it has been working for more than a decade to support the rights and wellbeing of workers and communities worldwide affected by the global electronics supply chain. Although the EICC Code of Conduct bans trafficked and forced labor, completely eradicating it in the global electronics industry supply chain remains a challenge for everyone—including EICC members.

Some of the ongoing challenges faced by government and industry in trying to protect workers were highlighted recently by international nonprofit Verité in a new report on forced labor among foreign migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry. The EICC has since published a position paper that outlines how it has been proactively working to address these issues and next steps, including:

  • The shadowing of audit firms operating in Malaysia over the next few weeks to confirm that EICC audit protocols are being strictly followed.
  • Continued collaboration with foreign and U.S. government officials, industry, non-government organizations and other stakeholders.
  • The establishment of a traffic and bonded taskforce to continue to draw attention to this important challenge facing its membership.

In 2014, EICC members voted to strengthen the Code of Conduct in 2015 to expand protections for workers around freely chosen employment. These changes, which go into effect on April 1, include more specific language on restrictions of worker freedom of movement, including the holding of passports; defining “excessive fees;” and adding requirements on issuing contracts at the time of hire, in the worker’s native language, before they depart from their country of origin.

The Validated Audit Process (VAP) is a signature component of the EICC’s Code of Conduct and certifies members’ commitments to transparency and fair labor practices. It can also be a key tool in the fight against forced labor in the electronics industry. Established in 2009, the VAP program has completed thousands of audits, conducted risk assessments on over 4,000 facilities around the world, finalized its fifth audit protocol, and released its first comprehensive findings report. These audits are often shared among members, many of which share suppliers and can benefit from benchmarking and collaborative practices.

Eliminating conflict minerals from supply chains is another significant problem afflicting the electronics industry. At at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Intel CEO Brian Krzanich challenged the entire electronics industry to join Intel in becoming “conflict-free.” Late last year, UL’s Information & Insights (I&I) division introduced a platform that can help companies identify conflict minerals sources and put the mandated comprehensive, audit-traceable reporting procedures in place quickly and cost-effectively.

Mike Hower is Marketing Communications Manager at Carbon Lighthouse. With a background on both sides of the communications podium — as a journalist and strategic communicator — he is committed to helping organizations address climate change through sustainability innovation. Previously,… [Read more about Mike Hower]

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