IT Code of Conduct Gains Big Backers

Industry initiative looks to standardize working conditions outside of the United States.
Posted November 10, 2004

Michael Singer

Three major IT companies are adding their muscle to a new industry program designed to standardize working conditions for non-U.S. workers.

Microsoft, Intel and Cisco Systems are the latest members of the recently announced Electronics Industry Code of Conduct (EICC).

The original members, IBM , HP and Dell , recently joined with partners Celestica, Flextronics, Jabil, Sanmina SCI, and Solectron to establish the EICC.

As previously reported, the goal of the agreements is to make sure each global supply chain provider adheres to local laws but also be held accountable for global standards, such as fair labor and employment practices, health and safety, ethics and protection of the environment.

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a 20-year-old global advisory group, has been tapped to facilitate the new Cisco/Microsoft/Intel working group within the EICC. The first step, according to Todd Holmdahl, Microsoft corporate vice president, is to develop common mechanisms and tools that will enable compliance with the Code.

Holmdahl said the company believes the collaboration is an important step in helping ensure safe working conditions and environmentally-responsible manufacturing practices throughout our global supply chain.

The companies will eventually work with each other as well as with their respective vendors and partners in the supply chain to develop common approaches to supplier survey, reporting methods, auditing tools, risk assessments and programs to enhance supplier capabilities.

Roger Whittier, vice president of Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group said the new unified code matches the chipmaker's current supplier standards, which have been in place since 1998.

"By working together to put these tools and mechanisms in place, we are creating a framework that allows the industry to build awareness and improve adherence to the code on a worldwide basis."

The EICC gained more momentum following a report earlier this year by the non-profit Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, which harshly criticized working conditions overseas.

Under the combined code, the EICC has said workers in countries like Taiwan, China and Mexico would be protected against child labor laws and would be eligible for the same minimum wage, overtime and other benefits as the local law allows. The standard would also prevent against discrimination in the workplace such as an applicant from Pakistan denied a job with a supplier in India based on his national origin.

Previously, the companies used their own respective codes of conduct, and suppliers were sometimes subjected to multiple, independent vendor audits based on different criteria.

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