Some of Australia’s most popular gadget and appliance brands have shown poor results in a report which reveals child labour, slavery and low wages remain a problem in the multi-trillion dollar global electronics industry.
Thermomix, Nutri-Bullet and GoPro are among big-name brands to receive a D-minus in the 2016 Electronics Industry Trends report, a survey of the supply chains of 56 companies conducted by Baptist World Aid.
“Forced labour, child labour and exploitation remain as significant problems in the supply chain of the electronics industry,” Baptist World Aid Australia advocacy manager Gershon Nimbalker said in a statement.
“This is the most valuable industry in the world, worth in the trillions. If anyone can afford to ensure they have an ethical supply chain, it’s our big tech companies.”
The report noted that Australian brands Kogan, Soniq and Palsonic “were among the worst performers receiving D-minus and F grades”.
It also found struggling electronics chain Dick Smith, which went into administration in January, had moved up from a D in the 2014 report to a B-minus due to its improved supply chain transparency and proof that factory workers were receiving above-minimum wages.
The two-year study assessed supply chains of some of the biggest companies in the world, including Apple and Microsoft, using publicly available and supplied information to rank the efforts companies make to guard against the use of child and forced labour and worker exploitation when sourcing products.
It examined from raw materials stage through smelting and refining and on to final manufacture and paints a largely grim picture, with a key finding that no company surveyed could demonstrate workers making its products were earning a living wage.
The Electronics Industry Trends report uses information published by the companies surveyed as well as answers supplied to a list of questions to build a picture of how much attention companies pay to the conditions endured by workers making their products.
Some companies did not respond to questions.
The report looks at four categories: policies; traceability and transparency; monitoring and training; and worker rights.
Traceability of raw materials remains a problem: while a majority of companies knew their final stage manufacturers, only 10 per cent had traced their inputs and none had fully traced their raw materials, the report said.
No company among the 56 surveyed achieved an A for its practices, although Mr Nimbalker said almost two-thirds of those surveyed had improved since the first report in 2014.
The median grade for 2016 was C, “suggesting workers remain overworked and underpaid, working long shifts with no overtime pay, little rest and wages so low families struggle to make ends meet,” Mr Nimbalker said.
Mr Nimbalker said company attitudes had changed in recent years and he was now seeing front-runners responding to shifting expectations about outsourced production.
“An increasing number of consumers say they want to be responsible and purchase ethically but they just don’t have any information on that,” he said.