In June 2013, a group of organizations working with workplace environment, worker rights and environmental issues criticized Samsung’s smartphone Galaxy S4 for being certified according to TCO Certified, TCO Development’s sustainability certification. TCO Development has since completed an analysis, in accordance with the special procedure established for situations where serious critique is directed at a certified product.
In June 2013, a group of organizations working with workplace environment, worker rights and environmental issues criticized Samsung’s smartphone Galaxy S4 for being certified according to TCO Certified, TCO Development’s sustainability certification. TCO Certified is a product certification and includes requirements for social responsibility in manufacturing. The critique focused on previously documented cancer cases and workplace accidents among workers at two of Samsung’s factories as well as Samsung’s alleged “anti-union” policy.
TCO Development responded to the critique seriously and contacted Samsung immediately to gather the company’s viewpoints and to begin a structured process to investigate the criticism. Simultaneously, TCO Development established a dialog with the group of organizations responsible for the criticism.
TCO Development also immediately informed other stakeholders, including the organization’s owner, The Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) as well as major purchasers of IT-products. Information about the issue was frequently updated and published on TCO Development’s website.
TCO Development has since completed an analysis, in accordance with the special procedure established for situations where serious critique is directed at a certified product. The focus of the analysis has been whether any of the issues presented means that the certified product, Samsung Galaxy S4 is not in compliance with the criteria in TCO Certified Smartphones 1 during the current certification period (May 2013 to present date).
Main conclusion from the analysis
The specific concerns presented in the criticism were connected to the requirement A.7.1 in TCO Certified Smartphones 1 . The requirement concerns health and safety laws in the country of production. The analysis has focused on the requirement that the manufacturer must have working routines in place to prevent and respond to workplace accidents as well as employee ill-health, as per the social responsibility criteria in the manufacturing of TCO certified products.
The analysis indicates that the criticism presented concerned alleged non-compliances in manufacturing that existed before the current certificate became valid (prior to May 2013) . Even with this knowledge, TCO Development demanded supplementary information and reports on the certified product, the Galaxy S4, from Samsung, as it related to the requirements regarding health and safety legislation in the country of production. The purpose of this measure was to further verify that routines were in place to prevent and respond to workplace accidents as well as ill-health in manufacturing, in accordance with the certification requirements. As TCO Certified is a third party label according to ISO’s type 1 environmental labelling, all information from Samsung that has served as the foundation for the analysis has been reviewed and verified by an independent third party and has met set requirements.
The critique also addressed concerns about a lack of freedom of association and collective bargaining at Samsung factories. The investigation has verified that the manufacturing of the certified product fulfills the requirements in TCO Certified Smartphones 1. This conclusion is based on the submitted documentation and factory inspections conducted before the certification of the Galaxy S4. The current criteria for socially responsible production in TCO Certified Smartphones 1 are designed to be achievable by 30–50 percent of the IT industry and are therefore set at a basic level. When roughly 50 percent of products on the market in a given product category satisfy the requirements in TCO Certified, the criteria are then successively revised and enhanced to further drive development. It is our aim to drive socially responsible production practices forward from this starting point. In these efforts, trade unions are an important stakeholder of TCO Development.
The following analysis and report is designed and intended only to assess how Samsung fulfills the social requirements in TCO Certified Smartphones 1, in the manufacturing of the certified product specified in this report.
The results of this report cannot be used in other contexts or to show the fulfillment of other requirements.
Main sections of the analysis
The introduction provides a background, describing the challenges that the IT industry faces today. The smartphone requirements included in the TCO Certified sustainability certification are then presented. Finally, five appendices accompany the report:
Appendix 1: An account of TCO Development’s analysis and response to the critique.
Appendix 2: An account of the analysis from an independent third party that TCO Development appointed to review the documentation from Samsung including third party inspections. The purpose has been to ensure whether the certified product, the Galaxy S4 fulfills the social responsibility criteria in production, in accordance with TCO Certified Smartphones 1.
Appendix 3: Description of TCO Development’s established general process to analyze suspected potential deviations from TCO Certified requirements in certified products.
Appendix 4: An excerpt from the criteria document “TCO Certified Smartphones 1”, the section concerning social responsibility in production.
Appendix 5: Description of improvements accomplished in the area of ergonomic, environmental and social sustainability within the IT industry in the last 20 years, as a direct result of TCO Development’s work.
/ Niclas Rydell, Director, Product Certification, TCO Development