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Unsafe working environments in the IT industry risk people’s health

Stockholm - Excessive working hours, forced labor and discrimination are some of the problems that risk workers’ health in the IT industry. Achieving a more socially sustainable industry requires long term investments, follow-up and clear consequences that encourage action.

Much of the manufacturing of IT products is carried out in low-cost, low-wage countries, where workers are often less protected. Supply chains are complex and cover several countries. It is almost impossible for a purchasing organization to know which factories are used to manufacture specific products. Specialist expertise, resources and access are needed to monitor working conditions.

“Succeeding with sustainable procurement of IT products is a challenge. Independent verification of compliance is crucial for a credible result. We’ve decided to use TCO Certified, it makes the procurement process much more efficient and helps us set criteria in a straightforward way,” says Helena Babelon, Head of IT Sustainability & Continuous Improvement at Electrolux Group.

The new report Impacts and Insights 2019 presents a number of keys to solving sustainability issues in the IT industry. An independent party must audit factories. Effective corrective action plans must be implemented and followed up regularly. To avoid the recurrence of problems, root causes must be found.

Sustainability work is resource-intensive and there is often a conflict of interest between fair working conditions and goals to minimize cost and time-to-market. A system of consequences is needed to ensure adequate progress.

“Real change demands engagement from the brand owner. We put pressure on the IT industry and can withdraw certificates and restrict factories from manufacturing certified products if the criteria in TCO Certified aren’t fulfilled,” says Sören Enholm, CEO at TCO Development.