2021 November 2

Electronics Watch Joins the Clean Electronics Production Network

Electronics Watch has joined the Clean Electronics Production Network (CEPN). CEPN is a multi-stakeholder innovation network, with the goal to "move toward zero exposure of workers to toxic chemicals in the electronics manufacturing process." As a member of CEPN, Electronics Watch will help our affiliates work effectively to remove toxic chemicals from their electronics supply chains.

CEPN includes civil society organisations, such as Electronics Watch monitoring partner, Centro de Reflexión y Acción Laboral (CEREAL), Mexico, and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology. Three CEPN members—Apple, Dell and HP—have recently joined CEPN's Toward Zero Exposure program, committing to accelerate existing efforts in chemical safety, including eliminating worker exposure to nine priority chemicals in key areas of their electronics supply chains.

The electronic industry uses thousands of chemicals in the materials and component manufacturing and assembling of IT products. Many of these chemicals are toxic to human health and should not be used or should only be used with extensive industrial hygiene measures to protect workers and the environment. This is an acute problem for public buyers who have a special responsibility to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the people in their jurisdictions. However, public buyers should not exercise this responsibility at the expense of the health, safety and wellbeing of people in different parts of the world who make vital equipment for public administrations.

Electronics Watch has proposed a two-fold public procurement strategy to help protect workers from chemical hazards. We have developed an initial list of 28 chemicals of concern which include 12 chemicals that should be immediately discontinued in favour of safer alternatives. Another 16 chemicals may have no feasible alternatives in certain applications but should be used with adequate industrial hygiene measures. A scoring tool is available for affiliated public buyers to measure how well suppliers protect workers from these chemicals.

The second part of our strategy is to support workers' right to know about the effects of exposure to chemicals and the right to protect themselves from exposure at work. This right, we believe, is best realised when workers have an effective collective voice—through unions, occupational health and safety committees, and other formal legal mechanisms. As a monitoring organization, we report to companies and to our affiliates when workers do not have access to the essential information to protect themselves or when their rights to organize are at risk.

CEPN, similarly, is committed to eliminating and replacing toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. CEPN also seeks to promote workers' active participation in the chemical management process. Thus, we believe there is common ground that can serve as foundation for constructive dialogue.

As a CEPN member, Electronics Watch will work to expedite the elimination of toxic chemicals in all tiers of the electronics supply chain and seek to ensure workers have an effective collective voice in this process. Affiliates to Electronics Watch share a commitment to a safe and healthy workplace in their electronics supply chain. They can provide a valuable market to reward the reforms necessary to protect workers form toxic chemicals.