Samsung continues to face struggles to ensure safe working conditions for its suppliers, with a new sustainability report for 2014 revealing ongoing labor issues in China including overworked staff and missing protective equipment, though no signs of child workers. The report, which also covers Samsung's efforts to develop more efficient and economical products, took results from third-party audits of 100 Chinese suppliers, and the results aren't entirely good.
For instance, 59-percent of the suppliers investigated had not supplied workers with the appropriate protective gear, such as safety shoes and gloves, earplugs, goggles, or masks, or did not ensure that such equipment was consistently used. Some facilities lacked smoke detectors and emergency exit routes in the case of a fire, while forty suppliers did not train some or all of their employees as to what to do in an emergency.
Samsung says that the audits found no evidence of child labor, allegations that caused ructions back in late 2012. However, sixteen suppliers showed evidence of excessive overtime, while 48 suppliers had minors working with chemicals that indicate "some safety precautions were inadequate."
The company says that immediate improvements were demanded when it discovered the shortcomings, and that the suppliers all fell into line.
Other issues include "administrative errors" at 33 locations, such as around contracts, as well as missing or delayed social insurance, failure to deliver consistent disciplinary actions, and problems with discrimination against certain potential employees by factors including age, gender, and pregnancy status.
Samsung insists it is now working to address all of the problems identified, with "fundamental improvements" promised to ensure compliance among those suppliers it relies upon. A new inspection checklist will be put into play across the board this year, as well as broaden its efforts to push compliance outside of China to other facilities in Southeast Asia and abroad.
"In some instances," Samsung says, "the [supplier compliance management code of conduct] guidelines are more stringent than suppliers' local or federal laws."
Ethical production has been under greater attention in recent years, as the origins of consumer electronics becomes a bigger consideration for buyers. Samsung, along with Apple, are two firms which perhaps find themselves under the microscope most frequently, given their scale in the industry, with reports like today's highlighting the ongoing tension between keeping product prices low while still ensuring that safe environmental and production staff conditions are met.