The Ethical Electronics Guide will empower you to purchase ethically. This guide shows how 39 electronics companies rate for their efforts to prevent worker exploitation with 2 simple pieces of information you need to know before buying your next gadget:
- The overall grades companies receive in The Electronics Report, and
- Whether the brand guarantees that workers receive a living wage
Behind the Barcode FAQ
What is Behind the Barcode?
Behind the Barcode is a series of industry reports seeking to empower consumers to purchase ethically, and by doing so, encourage companies to ensure workers are protected and not harmed, that they are rewarded, not exploited and that they work free from the tyranny of modern slavery. The guides’ grade 219 fashion brands and 47 electronics companies operating in Australia and around the world, and assess the systems they have in place to protect the workers in their supply chain from exploitation, forced labour and child labour.
How can I take action?
Check out these letter writing templates which you can use to contact the brands you love and encourage them to do all they can to protect the workers in their supply chain – your voice can be a catalyst for change!
Become more informed by reading and sharing our set of three factsheets on the fashion industry, highlighting the labour exploitation issues that exist from field to factory, focusing on risks in Uzbekistan, India and Bangladesh.
How are companies ranked?
The guides look at two key issues:
- Whether companies are paying their workers a living wage
- The grades indicate the extent to which a company has traced its suppliers and established systems throughout its supply chain that can enable it to prevent and address worker exploitation and slavery. Each brand is graded from A+ to F based on the efforts it has taken to prevent worker exploitation.
What do the grades represent?
A company’s grade represents an overall grade of the labour rights management systems that companies have in place. These grades are derived from research undertaken by Baptist World Aid Australia and published in The Australian Fashion Report and The Electronics Industry Trends report, using the Free2Work grading tool and methodology which was developed by Not For Sale and the International Labor Rights Forum. In assessing a company, we ask a set of 61 questions about its production policies and practices. Our assessment questions concern a company’s management of raw materials, inputs and cut-make trim manufacturing, and fall into four categories:
- POLICIES: We evaluate the brand’s code of conduct, sourcing and subcontracting policies, and involvement with other organisations working to combat child and forced labour.
- TRACEABILITY & TRANSPARENCY: We look at how thoroughly the brand understands its own supply chain, and whether it discloses critical information to the public.
- MONITORING & TRAINING: We measure the adequacy of the brand’s monitoring program to address the specific issues of child and forced labour.
- WORKER RIGHTS: We assess the degree to which the brand supports worker well-being by ensuring that workers are able to claim their rights at work through organising, and whether workers earn a living wage
How should I use the guide?
We hope that you take this little guide with you when you go shopping to empower you to make everyday ethical purchasing decisions. If a brand you’re considering buying from receives a relatively high grade overall, but doesn’t pay workers a living wage, it is up to you how you use this information to inform your purchasing decisions. Either way, we would encourage you to email the company directly informing them that you are a customer and would like to see them guarantee the workers who make their products are paid a living wage.
How do companies earn a tick for paying a living wage?
We ask companies for evidence that they are paying workers a living wage. A living wage is defined as a wage sufficient to support all the basic needs of a worker and his or her dependents with some money left over for discretionary spending and saving for emergencies. This amount varies between country and city. The legal minimum wage in many countries is not sufficient for all basic needs and leaves many workers on poverty level income.
Companies are asked to provide an audit report that demonstrated that wages being paid are above minimum wage and (if applicable) any additional livelihood services, such as healthcare or education, are being provided. Companies are also asked to provide documentation demonstrating that they had developed a methodology to understand and calculate a living wage and have completed formal calculations to demonstrate that living wages were being paid
Why do you ask fashion companies to boycott Uzbekistani cotton?
Uzbekistan, a nation now infamous for its use of forced labour, is currently the world’s fifth largest exporter of cotton. Every year the Karimov government forces up to a million people into the cotton fields. For decades this has included children as young as 10. Here they work under appalling conditions, oppressed by threats of violence and penalties.
See more about this issue on our website here
Why do you ask fashion companies to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh?
In the last decade alone, the size of the garment industry in Bangladesh has doubled. It now employs over four million workers (85% of whom are women) and comprises 80% of the country’s exports. Bangladesh attracts garment producers because the costs of production are so low. These low costs come with a hefty price, including the lowest manufacturing wages in the world and a history of appalling, potentially life-threatening working conditions. Since the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse where over 1,100 workers lost their lives, there has been significant global pressure for changes in the industry. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a legally binding agreement to protect the safety of worker and is regarded as the best practice health and safety initiative in Bangladesh.
See more about this issue here
Fair trade clothing brands receive the highest grades in your fashion report. Are there other fair trade clothing brands in Australia?
Find fair trade brands at http://search.fairtrade.com.au/
The Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand also produces a Fair Trade Shopping Guide which you can order directly from them.
Is the Australian Fashion Report or the Electronics Industry Trends Report available in other languages?
We are currently working on producing a Japanese translation for the Electronics Industry Trends Report. If you are interested in recieving this translation, please email Jasmin.Mawson@baptistworldaid.org.au
Thank you for your interest in our Behind the Barcode research.
Phone: (02) 9921 3360
Advocacy Research and Campaign Coordinator
Phone: (02) 9921 3361