Due to the use of hazardous chemicals, many electronics workers are suffering from cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and other problems.
The global electronics industry is the fastest growing industrial sector in the world, with an estimated 18 million workers – the majority of whom are women. Production is carried out by a complex web of supply chains that span across the continents. Most of the production is carried out in Asia by large sub-contract manufacturers that assemble the products for major brands.
Dangerous chemicals used in the electronics industry
The industry has been facing many challenges in its supply chain, ranging from excessive working hours and low wages to exposure to hazards and lack of unionisation. Electronics companies rely heavily on the use of hazardous substances, and workers are often the most vulnerable due to their exposures and because they are often not informed about the substances’ dangerous properties. For example, there is little or no information about the safety of certain chemicals, as well as on the sources and amounts of exposure, not to mention the impacts to humans and the environment. Due to chemical poisoning and lack of industry transparency, many electronics workers are suffering from increased rates of cancer, reproductive damage, birth defects and other serious illnesses, as documented by civil society groups around the world.
High standards set by civil society organisations and experts
To address these problems, GoodElectronics and ICRT convened experts from civil society organisations (CSOs) in electronics production countries to develop and publish ‘Meeting the Challenge’ in 2015. This comprehensive Challenge contains important recommendations for safe and sustainable manufacturing practices, and calls on the electronics industry to address six key areas:
- use of safer chemicals
- protection of workers
- participation of workers and communities
- protection of communities and the environment, and
- compensation and remediation.
Standards set by the electronics industry
EICC is a coalition of more than 100 electronics, retail, auto and toy companies. It proudly claims that it is committed to supporting the rights and well-being of workers and communities around the world that have been affected by the global electronics supply chain. EICC sets and holds its members accountable to standards and provides training and assessment tools. Full members of the EICC need to adhere to the EICC Code of Conduct. The EICC also provides a Validated Audit Process (VAP) to its members to assess the level of sustainability in their supply chain. For this Validated Audit Process, the VAP Protocol has been developed (latest version: EICC VAP Operations Manual, Revision 5.1 – January 2016).