Poor working conditions is a risk throughout the IT product supply chain. Stephen Fuller, TCO Development’s expert on supply chain management, explains how we work with brand owner engagement, systematic accountability and clear consequences to ensure that problems are detected and improvements made.

Why are social criteria included in TCO Certified?

“For those who want to drive greater social responsibility, a major issue is the complexity of the IT product supply chain. The computer or smartphone can contain thousands of components and the network of subcontractors supplying components and raw materials covers many companies on several continents.

“We introduced our first criteria on socially responsible manufacturing 10 years ago. At the time, no other IT product certification covered this issue. IT product supply chains are complex and factories situated far around the world. This made independent factory access and verification a challenge. For a certification, there’s also a risk of being associated with negative practices if improvements aren’t made. These concerns can discourage a certification from tackling the issues with supply chain responsibility, but we chose a different path. At TCO Development, we have a holistic perspective on sustainability. In addition to environmental sustainability, we consider it to be our obligation to know how certified IT products are manufactured, where they come from and how workers are treated.”

How is an audit done and by whom?

“Audits must lead to positive changes in working conditions. Therefore, brand owners and factory management must allow qualified, accredited, independent auditors following approved audit procedures to have access to their factory. Depending on the size of the factory, social audits typically take two to five days to complete, and cover employee statements, observations and document reviews to help verify factories are working in a structured way to comply with socially responsible principles.”

What happens if problems are detected in the factory?

“The purpose of an audit is to identify non-conformities and their root causes and give that information to the audit requester in a report. Audits have been criticised for not leading to corrective actions. However, it’s not the responsibility of the auditors or the audit to fix ide