KnowTheChain 2020 Information & Communications Technology Benchmark
The 49 largest information communications and technology (ICT) companies have a combined market capitalization of US$5 trillion and combined annual profits of almost US$1 trillion. This brings with it a responsibility to prevent and address forced labor in supply chains, particularly when crises such as COVID-19 heighten risks for workers. Yet this third benchmark reveals a sustained failure by ICT companies to tackle forced labour in their supply chains, with more than three-quarters scoring less than 50%, and with an average score of 30%.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (70/100) tops the benchmark in 2020, closely followed by HP (69/100), Samsung (69/100), Intel (68/100), and Apple (68/100). These five companies all disclose repayment of fees to workers in their supply chains as well as steps to better understand (and thus ultimately prevent) fees from being charged to workers. That said, the highest score achieved in the benchmark is 70/100, showing that even the stronger-performing companies in the sector can do much more—especially in closing the gap between policy and practice.
Companies scoring 10/100 or lower include the US semiconductor company Broadcom (10/100), the German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies (9/100), and the Swedish electronics equipment company Hexagon (8/100). The three lowest-scoring companies include the world’s largest surveillance equipment manufacturer, Hikvision, and Largan Precision, which manufactures lenses for electronic devices and is a supplier to Amazon and Apple. Xiaomi, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer, is the only company to score zero in the benchmark.
After three rounds of KnowTheChain benchmarks over five years, a number of the companies have implemented policies, yet a significant gap remains between the disclosure of policies and their implementation.
Some of the greatest failures are in some of the most important areas for combatting forced labour.
- Worker Voice: All 49 companies scored zero on ensuring workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively for better conditions, which is a crucial safeguard against abuse.
- Recruitment: Companies have increased efforts to stop workers being charged recruitment fees, a situation which puts many at risk of debt bondage. 73% of companies (36/49) have a policy of prohibiting their suppliers from charging workers recruitment fees – up from 60% in the 2018 benchmark. However, only 13 companies (27%) disclose evidence that workers have had their recruitment fees paid back, and no company set out a comprehensive process to prevent workers being charged fees in the first place.
Major tech companies still failing to prevent forced labour in supply chains as COVID-19 raises risk to workers