Summary of Results
As KnowTheChain's 2016 ICT benchmark found, worker voice was once again the lowest scoring theme. We continue to see large gaps in disclosure regarding what companies are doing to enable workers in their supply chains to use their voice and promote freedom of association, and a lack of evidence that supply chain workers have access to effective grievance mechanisms.
The benchmark findings show poor disclosure on both worker voice and supporting workers' right to freedom of association. Six out of 40 companies give examples of engaging directly with workers in their supply chains, or working with stakeholders to do so. Microsoft has provided education on labor rights and training on its pilot grievance mechanism at six first-tier and second-tier suppliers. NXP Semiconductors provides training to workers in its supply chains on its no recruitment fee policy, appropriate working conditions, reading paychecks, working hours, living conditions, and protections for workers who report their concerns.
Only three out of 40 companies referenced working with suppliers to improve their practices on freedom of association. However, despite the small number of companies that are taking action in these areas, this does mark a step in the right direction in company practices since 2016 when no companies scored points for worker voice or freedom of association.
Sixteen out of 40 companies disclose having a grievance mechanism in place that is available to suppliers' workers and to external stakeholders. However, companies typically do not demonstrate that the mechanism is effective, or whether it is used by workers in their supply chains. For instance, only three companies (Apple, Microsoft and Samsung) publish data on the operation of the supply chain grievance mechanism. This includes information on the number and type of complaints received by topic, per year. It is equally rare for companies to disclose evidence that mechanisms are available to and used by lower-tier suppliers' workers.
However, practices in this area have developed since 2016. Leading companies are starting to look into the effectiveness of grievance mechanisms in their supply chains. HP requires suppliers to have effective and confidential grievance mechanisms available in migrant workers' native languages. Apple requires suppliers to maintain records of information such as types and number of grievances, channels used by workers, and worker satisfaction with resolutions. Notably, Samsung discloses the percentages of types of complaints it receives regarding human rights at the supplier level, such as complaints about managers, wages, benefits, workhours, and others, thus demonstrating the mechanism is in fact used to report grievances of workers in supply chains.
Companies are taking some steps to ensure that workers are able to access the supply chain standards on forced labor that are applicable to them. Twenty-one out of 40 companies disclose that their supply chain standards are available in the languages of suppliers' workers. However, only a quarter of companies explain how they ensure those policies are communicated to workers in their supply chains.