Companies’ Common Questions

Some electronics companies are familiar with Electronics Watch and understand how we operate and what we can contribute. Other companies that make or sell products to public sector buyers may have questions. Here are some answers. Please also feel free to refer companies to Electronics Watch for further explanations.

Is Electronics Watch an NGO?

Yes, Electronics Watch is an NGO in the sense that we are not a government, and not a for-profit business, but organised as a not-for-profit organisation under Dutch law. But we are not an NGO in the sense that we campaign against companies and use media for “naming and shaming.” Rarely do we contact media at all.

What does Electronics Watch want to accomplish?

Electronics Watch’s members—we call them affiliates—are public sector organisations such as municipalities, universities, national government agencies, and other public organisations that buy electronics products.

Electronics Watch helps them to work together to protect the rights of workers in their electronics supply chains, collaborating with civil society monitoring partners that are located in electronics production regions. Electronics Watch provides public buyers with the means to follow-up on their contractual obligations they have agreed upon with you.

Electronics Watch wants to improve conditions in affiliates’ supply chains and believes an essential aspect of that work is the collaboration with local monitoring partners who have eyes and ears on the ground and are accessible to workers who want to report problems.

These monitoring partners—don’t they have their own agendas? Are they credible?

Here are three things we would like you to consider when we talk about Electronics Watch civil society monitoring partners:

First, they are independent and committed to evidence-based research. “Independent” means that they do not have any material interest in an investigation they are conducting with Electronics Watch. They do not have ties to either companies or workers that could create any conflict of interest. They base findings on multiple layers of evidence, including worker testimonies, documentary evidence, and physical observations, and can conduct factory research offsite or both offsite and onsite.

Second, they are experts in their fields. That means they can employ sophisticated monitoring methodologies and they can analyse data against relevant domestic and international standards. Electronics Watch also brings in other independent experts, for example in occupational safety and health or migrant worker recruitment.

Third—and this in particular distinguishes them from the typical social auditor—they are located where they can have ongoing relations with workers. They work hard to gain the trust and confidence of workers so that workers can come to them with problems without fear of retaliation.

Electronics Watch monitoring partners, like any other researcher, can improve. That is why Electronics Watch is launching a monitoring methodology training program for key partners in nine different regions in 2019.

We just received a report from Electronics Watch that alleges that we (or our supplier) is violating labour standards. We take each such allegation seriously. What do you expect from us?

Expectations and recommendations for companies may differ from case to case, and those expectations will be clearly spelled out in a letter accompanying the Electronics Watch report.

In general terms, Electronics Watch seeks to work collaboratively with companies to address the problems they have identified. This process requires transparency and efficiency—i.e., a clear and time-bound process towards improvements.

As a first step, you should acknowledge receipt of the Electronics Watch report within 48 hours that you first saw it on email. As soon as possible thereafter you should agree on a timeline for your follow up investigation and corrective action.

If Electronics Watch has findings that workers’ health, safety, or wellbeing are in danger they may designate those as urgent. Then you should address those findings within 48 hours, which is the industry standard.

Throughout this process we expect you to share your findings fully and to explain the evidence you have for your findings. This level of transparency is also required in the Electronics Watch Contract Conditions.

I worry I am going to have to field questions from public buyers or reply to allegations in the media when Electronics Watch releases a report.

Electronics Watch would not normally recommend that affiliates contact you—or even share the monitoring report with affiliates—before you have had the opportunity to address findings collaboratively.

At the stage when they report to affiliates Electronics Watch hopes to be able to describe progress as well the problems. Later yet Electronics Watch will in most cases upload the report, including all progress that has been made, to their website.

But they will never seek to sensationalise findings to gain media attention. We believe this process strikes the appropriate balance between maintaining a safe space to address problems in a workplace and ensuring accountability to affiliates and the public.

I am reseller, far removed from the location of production, and with no influence to improve conditions there. Yet, I am contractually bound to meet the standards in your code. How can I?

The Electronics Watch Contract Conditions are based on the due diligence concept in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which applies to all companies, no matter their size or their position in a supply chain.

The Electronics Watch Contract Conditions explain that contractors must exercise due diligence to identify and mitigate the risk of potential breaches, remedy actual breaches, and prevent recurrence of breaches of the standards contained in the Electronics Watch Code (or an equivalent code) in the production of the goods you sell to affiliates. That means you need to use any bargaining power you have over your suppliers, including contractual rights and commercially viable incentives, to procure, in the spirit of continuous improvement, the goods in accordance with the Code.

The Conditions further explain you should use “reasonable and proportionate endeavours” to achieve compliance with the Code. You need to show that you have done so, for example through letters that you have sent supplier requesting compliance.

Electronics Watch makes it easy for you to comply with this due diligence requirement as we can provide you with sample letters that Electronics Watch makes available in its Public Buyer Toolkit.

Can I see those Contract Conditions?

Yes. The Contract Conditions are available here.