Working conditions at Hi-P

One of the biggest reasons for me to pay around double the price that a comparable phone could cost is that I want to have a phone that is produced under acceptable working conditions.

In the Blog about this issue


I can see the conditions of 2014 and what improvements should be made. (pages 14ff)

What I would really appreciate is a stronger verification process than discussions with the management and photos taken by the management. (A fire extinguisher cleared of obstructions just for the photo looks exactly like a really clearly accessible fire extinguisher, and a chinese management (just according to chinese culture - independent of the company) will not freely admit bad conditions in its factory.

How often do Fairphone employees visit the chinese factory themselves?
What are the results of the April 2015 unannounced visit of TAOS?! Except one all status updates were older than April 2015.

Of all the Smartphones produced in the world the FF2 is certainly the fairest. But the possibilities of verification are still not where I want them to be.
Fairphone and Community, please take this as encouragement to proceed stronger on this thorny path!
As seen in this post


People and especially institutions are willing to pay more for a fairer product. But to part with real money they need valid proof of this fairness.

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I asked similar questions and I did not receive answers. I was told they are too busy and my questions were too detailed. I asked Joe to publish our discussion about this, he did not because I was the only one interested in this. Maybe if more people will ask this after the FP2 release, they will put some more effort into this?

I think most of this is already much better than what you see elsewhere, but the “improvement” process and the questions with the findings are the most important things (you cannot find what you do not ask/check for … and to improve it, you also have to check it later, again.).

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I’d be interested but surely I can wait until main work with delivering FP2s is done.

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Very interesting topic, I am in the same situation: I am curious about the progress made on the front of fairer condition of the workers, and afaik there are (still) no proof about it except the report from the management, that could be not so disinterested.
I would appreciate even proof or progress about the supply chain of the metals that come into Fairphone, but I know that is not simply at all

Building a community that is concerned about fairness of production is one of the declared goals of Fairphone:

[quote=“Fairphone main page”]###Social Entrepreneurship
We’re working to create a new economy – one where social and environmental values become a natural part of doing business. Together, we’re creating momentum to design a better future.[/quote]

So discussions about this issue should not be hindered but encouraged!

Actually I’m quite disappointed that most of the threads in the forum are about comparing the specs of the two FP against other Smartphones.
I’m not a “Strickpulliträger” as we germans call treehuggers but I want fairness being a part of every consumer decision. And for these decisions I need to know and discuss the fairness of the products.
Thats why Fairphone has a Sustainability Officer and a Public Engagement representative.
And questions about this issue need to be public to make an impact.

My only explanation about the lack of encouragement of fairness discussion in the forum is lack of time of the respective staff.
That’s why I try myself to direct the discussion towards fairness questions and away from the specs of the FPs (as there’s actually just “abwarten und Tee trinken” (wait and see) to do about them)!
If more of the community would discuss about fairness and less about things that are
fix anyway, then the staff might find the time to take part in the discussion, too.

And that would really mean a change, if sustainability, fairness, ecology etc. would not only be influenced by a company but by a community!

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Hi @Peer,

Good questions! Here’s a short message to let you know that we are in the process of publishing an update regarding social assessments and improvements at our manufacturing partner, Hi-P. We started talking about the process of production forecasting and managing the necessary workforce on our blog last week. More to come like that.

Do I get it right that you want more transparency and information about how Fairphone or Fairphone owners can verify that proper working conditions are met at the manufacturer(s) that make the phone? Is there more?

If I understand your interest and motivation, it’s easier to figure out if we’re on the same page.

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Hi @joe,

I can’t speak for @Peer, but from my point of view, it would be great to get some information on working conditions from an official third-party source like TAOS, like maybe a report on their findings from the unexpected April 2015 visit or later ones, if there were more.

Have you ever considered something like an SA8000 certification or similar? If so, what are reasons for/against it from your point of view? Another alternative would be ISO 26000, though they only provide benchmarks and don’t actually certify, but you could publish your current status as compared to the benchmarks and set goals for some future point in time and then report on whether you’ve been able to meet them. (And of course, you could do a comparison of where you were a year ago and where you are now, if you want to show us improvements to date…)

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Very much support for this thread.

@Peer
Yeah, personally I find technical specs not the top priority of this undertaking, but up-to-day features are a means to find more customers for the device. FP has to survive in the “real” world…well, and so on…

@anon90052001,
What progress has been made compared to FP1? What was not achieved? What certificates do you know of, are they applicable?
People are lazy and comparing working condition specs may be tedious, so provide graphs…

If I had to provide a priority list:

  1. Working conditions for all those involved in the process of making the phone (hey, that includes FP people…and those shipping to me).
  2. Environmental impact.
  3. Open source.
  4. Security support.
  5. Tech specs.
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I totally agree on @maik’s priority list. I lack the mental calm in my head to delve deep in reports on worker conditions or participate in discussions on it on this forum, but it would be a good thing if external independent parties made a judgement - and all the more good PR for Fairphone if the reports turn out favourable.

I too am interested in this conversation - in a constructive way, wanting it to reinforce and strengthen everything FP stands for.
I like the idea of certification. In the UK, we have the Fairtrade Foundation, which offers certification for goods meeting their fair trading criteria.
http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/for-business/ways-of-working-with-fairtrade/licensee-application/certification-faqs
There is an Electronics Industry Citizen Coalition (EICC) - but as an industry body with only a Code of Conduct I suspect that this is fairly weak test.
http://www.eiccoalition.org/

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Hi all,

Good to see the interest for this topic! Let me provide some further input in this discussion. I work in the Value Chain team and have been involved with Fairphone since the early days.

There are some assumptions mentioned that I feel overlook what Fairphone is about, i.e. a movement that uses a phone as a vehicle for change in the electronics industry. We started our journey together with the Fairphone community, not because we felt we had all the answers to ‘fairness’, but because we believe it should be possible to merge business with creating social and environmental value. We are learning by doing and use transparency to stimulate debate and challenge the industry.

This having said let me address some of the comments mentioned here and in the other thread about the Dashboard for FP audit results.

We value third-party assessments with suppliers a lot as a starting point in a collaborative effort for improvement, but for us it’s not the most valuable tool for systemic change at a workplace. We prefer to invest more resources in growing a direct relationship, to allow for a sincere exchange of information and for more tailored solutions for specific problems. We feel this way the management is more likely to admit the actual challenges they face and are more willing to work with us to address them.

Team members from the Amsterdam office regularly travel to Suzhou (on a monthly basis) and Mulan is stationed there permanently, which means we ‘blend in’ more naturally in the facility and the management doesn’t polish the workplace when we come, which I think is more likely to happen for third-party audits and verification. At the moment, this approach and our collaborative attitude towards suppliers is a big part of the innovation and transformation we want to bring in the industry.

There are many! Labels, certifications, industry codes, etc., but similar to audits and assessments, we see these as a tool for benchmarking, not a ‘checkbox’ or solution for many of the systemic social and environmental issues underlying our products. Fairphone therefore first pursued certification on a company level, instead of on the product level. Since May 2015, after an in-depth assessment of our company working methods, we received a B-Corp certification for social enterprises with a scorecard attached. The good thing about this is that it allows for ongoing improvement, which will be assessed by a third-party on a regular basis.

Aside from this, there are certifications and labels attached to our supply chain, for example the Hi-P facility in Suzhou has an ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certification. and we’re connecting mines from the DRC and neighboring countries to our supply chain that are officially validated conflict-free. But in this way, a certification applies to a specific topic and in a specific situation and we feel it still requires an explanation or context when it comes to an electronic end product such as our Fairphone. More about our approach to certifications is in this blogpost.

Again a very valid point, but also not so straightforward to answer. Indeed some improvement activities we can literally appoint to be “in” our phone, for example we know that the printed circuit boards for Fairphone 2 are made using 35% recycled copper. But for many others, there is a more indirect connection.

Think about the conflict-free tin and tantalum, which we support by convincing Hi-P to source from sub-suppliers that we appoint, because they are part of the Conflict-Free Smelter Program. However, we learned that in these sub-suppliers, so-called ‘mass-balance’ takes place, meaning the tin and tantalum from Congo is mixed with other conflict-free material from non-conflict areas such as Australia.

This means we can’t guarantee that in every Fairphone 2, there is conflict-free tin from Congo. But by doing this, we are creating a better understanding and tools for more responsible sourcing within Hi-P and stimulating demand for those sub-suppliers that are part of these initiatives, which in turn helps them to buy bigger volumes from the Congolese mines. It gets the issue higher on the agenda and we’re creating connections between parties that are more responsible.

Thanks a lot for saying that the Fairphone 2 is the fairest, but we keep saying there is tons of work still to be done and we’re far from 100% fair. To put a label or stamp and claim that the phone is produced under acceptable working conditions, would simplify the actual problems at stake which can lead to quick fixes and Band-Aid solutions. Before there is peace in Congo, you will not hear me say that the working conditions underlying our phone are acceptable. We should aim for ongoing improvement.

We’re trying to report about our journey as much as we can on our website and we are aware that we can improve the way we structure and present it. Again, this is a learning and incremental process. “Hard facts” we get our hands on we publish, like assessment reports and additionally we prefer to show the human side that puts our activities in the local context by making videos amongst others. I agree there are more possibilities to explore for the community to verify things are ‘fairer’ which up to now is a balance of reports, audiovisuals and blog updates. We’re taking your comments into account once we’ll be revisiting our website infrastructure.

In sum, we want to provide deeper insights in our processes and I agree there could have been an earlier blog providing information about the status of Hi-P’s improvement plan and the efforts to address issues like working hours, temporary workers and worker representation (other than the one published last week). In the meantime we have picked other developments first to highlight, because we also want to balance our stories about ‘mining’, ‘design’, ‘manufacturing’ and ‘lifecycle’. There is so much to tell and as a small company, there are always choices to be made.

Sorry that this is again a long read, but I can’t make it look prettier or easier than it is ;-).

Thanks for reading!
Bibi

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Thanks a lot for the post, @anon2751513!

Regarding:

Fairness issues are complex and often require in-depth explanations, but it is always great to have easy-to-grasp graphs and illustrations that every Fairphoner can use when the need arises to explain the decision to invest so much money in a FP. Not so much to defend oneself, but simply to make FP more popular. And maybe, if possible, include hints like “see what we have done and how much profit we make and think about how much profit other companies make…”

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@anon2751513: Thank you very much for your long thoughtful post. I like it a lot.

I think most audit norms state that the process of the auditing should be done like this. And often hard facts help overcoming hard business problems … with all sides still be able to keep their “face”. It’s the laws/regulations and how they get interpreted … not “you” or “them” doing things “wrong”. But one has to be there for a long time to understand how a places works, I totally agree. After seeing issues, changing them … is a long term project.

So far, FP had never explained how the OEM/ODM business works. I asked this question, but I did not got an answer. I always assumed the OEM/ODM choice is based on what company is supported by the SoC manufacturer. So I’m not sure if this growing relationship process will work if it is tied to the SoC. But maybe I’m wrong and I misunderstood something. It would be great if FP could explain how the phone manufacturing system it wants to change works right now. It’s hard to even figure out who really builds something these days before it gets branded. Also the FP is just one phone they build … and maybe your are not even the biggest customer.

Please state this some somewhere where it can be found quickly. I think this makes the project and the product better. Else people will get confused and upset. The reasons are much better if they can think about it. The world is complex and the buyers that will buy a fairphone will read the critical reviews later anyway.

I totally get that.

Thanks again for your post.

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This is a good reminder to what Fairphone is about and why I “joined the movement” as the saying goes. For me Fairphone is not so much about owning a “fair phone” (I wouldn’t even buy a smartphone ever if it wouldn’t be for Fairphone allowing me to make this statement) but making a statement that as a consumer of electronics I’m willing to pay for products that are made of minerals that are mined fair and sustainable and products that are made under social working conditions. For me, the ultimate hope is ‘the industry’ will pick up on this and when I need to replace it, I can buy that much oftener used and far more important device for me: the desktop PC, as a fair and sustainably used product. Though I have to thank this forum for some pointers to companies that already are creating eco-friendly pieces:
Which computer do you recommend? (though the problem usually is, I never came upon an eco-friendly computer that is gamer-friendly as well. I want a fair, sustainable gaming desktop).

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I fully agree with your priority list Maik if ‘Working conditions’ means : salary (compared to living minimum), security and health issues at work, daycare for kids, workmeans, workinghours, social security whether public or company based, childlabor, salami span in company between workers and topmanagement, right for workers to unite in unions, is there an official labour regulator on paper, a committee for security and health in the factory. What are these conditions with the shopping companies, storage etc…

Ein interessanter Artikel zum Thema auf www.heise.de

:de: Fairphone-Produktion in China: Mehr Fairness am Fließband

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