Top makers accused

The top five handset makers have been accused of violating health and safety regulations in Far Eastern plants. 
Research from the Dutch NGO SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations) documents abuses in Chinese, Thai, Philippine and Indian factories by Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG.

SOMO singles out Nokia and Motorola, accusing them of allowing factory staff to work with chemicals that can cause chronic illnesses without proper protection.

“Despite the clean image often portrayed by this high-tech industry, SOMO’s research at mobile phone production facilities reveals that conditions in handset factories can be appalling, especially among sub-tier suppliers of mobile phone component parts.”

That ‘sub-tier’ is probably the core issue – the employees are working directly not for the organisation that will be branding and selling the phones, but for a subcontractor several links down the supply chain.

At least it’s not all bad on the corporate responsibility front: a report by the environmental lobby group Greenpeace suggests that most of the 14 top manufacturers of PCs and mobile phones have demonstrated a commitment to greener manufacturing processes and recycling.

Apple is the notable laggard – “absolutely no improvements to its policies or practices since the ranking was first released three months ago” – but Nokia continues to hold the top spot in the ranking, with progressive policies on both, its chemicals policy as well as disposal of electronic waste. However, Greenpeace says the company has yet to indicate when PVC will be phased out completely.

Motorola has been the fastest mover in the ranking. It came in second bottom last time, but it has made “strong commitments” and moves up to fourth.

LG, Samsung and Sony have lost points for failing to act on their commitments to individual producer responsibility. All are supporting regulation in the US that would place the responsibility for product recycling on consumers instead of producers.

“Companies seem to respond to competition rather than conscience. By turning the spotlight onto top electronics companies and challenging them to outrank their competition, the Guide to Greener Electronics has succeeded in motivating companies to improve their policies on chemicals and waste,” concluded Greenpeace. Download the report for yourself from

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