Samsung Finally Making Progress, Consumers Must Keep the Pressure Up

photo courtesy of SHARPS

While Samsung is quick to address issues within its supply chain to ensure the safety of its consumers, it has dragged its feet to take steps to ensure the safety of its factory workers

But after years of public campaigning, Samsung has finally begun to take steps to address some of labor issues in its supply chain – ones that Green Americans and our international allies have spent years demanding action on. 

On July 24th, 2018, Samsung signed a binding arbitration framework that will ensure victims of chemicals exposure are properly taken care of and would follow through with recommendations put together by a third-party mediation committee. The third-party mediation committee was set up in 2014 when Samsung and SHARPS, the occupational health advocacy and watchdog group, first began discussions to devise a way to compensate past and future victims of chemical exposure at Samsung’s chemical factories. Once talks fell through in 2015, SHARPS held a 1,023 day sit-in at Samsung’s headquarters. 

The general framework that Samsung has agreed to includes: 

  • Implementing safety measures proposed by the third-party mediation committee; 

  • Formally apologizing to victims and their families; 

  • Compensating victims that SHARPS has profiled under a compensation scheme proposed by the third-party mediation committee; 

  • Continuing to compensate new victims for the next ten years. 

Meanwhile, SHARPS will formally end its sit-in at Samsung headquarters once the proposal has been signed by SHARPS, Samsung, and the third-party committee. 

This is a promising news to come out of South Korea, and we commend SHARPS for their tireless leadership on this issue. 

But Samsung’s progress doesn’t stop there! 

In its 2018 Sustainability Report, Samsung published a list of 11 substances that are regulated within its supply chain. Samsung banned benzene and n-Hexane from their supply chain, and has shared restrictions for the other nine chemicals. 

Although this is a promising first step, it’s important to note that far more than 11 chemicals are used in electronics manufacturing. Furthermore, this demonstrates how behind the curve Samsung is compared to its competitors. Thanks to Green Americans and our allies, Apple banned n-hexane and benzene from its supply chains in 2014; meanwhile, it has taken four years of public campaigning and behind-the-scenes activism to get Samsung to commit to what Apple did four years ago. 

This means that it is important for Green Americans to dial up the pressure on Samsung. While these updates are encouraging, Samsung still has a long way to go to ensure the safety of all of its workers. The victory in South Korea, for instance, does not mitigate horrific working conditions in Samsung’s Vietnamese factories. And while publishing a list of restrictions for 11 chemicals is better than publishing restrictions for zero chemicals, other industry leaders – including Apple and Google – have published more comprehensive plans regarding hazardous chemicals in their supply chains. 

Join Green America in taking action today – let Samsung know that you’re keeping an eye on its labor practices, and expect even stronger commitments to protect its smartphone factory workers. 

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