Managing human rights challenges
We work actively to address human rights across our value chain. While ICT facilitates many fundamental human rights, we also recognize specific challenges around business and human rights.
Since 2011, we have been working to integrate the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into our governance framework. Since 2012 we have been active with the Business Learning Program of the non-profit center for business and human rights, Shift, to embed a human rights framework across the company. Our human rights due diligence covers areas such as Sales, Sourcing and Legal Affairs.
Rising societal concerns
Technology can also be used by governments to fight crime and to assist in life-saving emergencies. Despite the benefits, in some cases it can also be misused to restrict human rights, and can infringe on an individual’s right to privacy.
Concern around surveillance, mining of personal data and cyber-attacks is rising. It is essential that the right to privacy is protected so that users and their data are secure and rights are protected. Ericsson works to ensure appropriate levels of security in our products, and a range of tools are deployed to ensure security solutions and safeguarding of network operations.
UNGP’s reporting framework
In 2016, for the second consecutive year, we are applying the UNGP Reporting Framework, the first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on how they respect human rights. In 2015, we were the first company in the ICT sector, and among a handful globally, to report according to the Framework.
Assessing our human rights impacts
Our human rights due diligence covers processes within sales, sourcing, legal affairs, and operations. In 2015 we strengthened these processes by implementing a systematic, risk-based approach to better identify risks. In addition, we use Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIA) in accordance with the UNGP to discover adverse human rights impacts that Ericsson may cause or contribute to. Our aim is to ensure respect for human rights within our business operations and analyze the social, operational and human rights context for doing business in a given country. HRIAs have been initiated in the following countries:
Myanmar: Myanmar is undergoing democratic and social reform, and respect for human rights remains a concern. In 2015 we acted upon HRIA findings related to issues such as labor conditions and worker safety, particularly in the supply chain. All sales in Myanmar are assessed through the Sales Compliance Process, and in 2015 we offered training programs in Myanmar focused on human rights and responsible business. We continue to monitor developments in the country to ensure we uphold the UNGPs.
Iran: HRIA was initiated in Iran in 2014 and implemented the following year. Occupational health and safety (OHS), sourcing and supply chain management, security, sales compliance, and discrimination are all prioritized action areas for which mitigation activities have been identified and acted upon, though we continue to evaluate the human rights situation and monitor international developments.
Ethiopia: In 2015, we initiated a HRIA in Ethiopia due to increased business in the country and as part of our human rights due diligence to identify salient human rights issues.
Stakeholder engagement on human rights
Stakeholders have rising expectations for greater transparency on business and human rights. We engage with a wide range of stakeholders including human rights organizations, governments, customers and other stakeholders to better understand the responsibilities and challenges around human rights and business.
Some of our engagements in 2015 included:
- Stakeholder consultations as part of our HRIA work for Iran.
- The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) working group on human rights, which includes stakeholder engagement. It initiated in 2015 several projects focusing on specific ICT sector challenges regarding the supply chain and the right to privacy.
- Sharing our experience on reporting according to the new UNGP Reporting Framework at both the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights and a conference with Nordic investors.
Focus on the Right to Privacy
ICT has the potential to transform how we innovate, collaborate and socialize – but only if networks and services keep information secure and protect the privacy rights of all.