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Respect for human rights

Access to communications is a basic human need and this is embodied in our approach to human rights. Over the past several years we have worked to develop and strengthen our human rights framework to fulfil our responsibility to respect human rights according to the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights.

Human Rights

We respect all internationally recognized human rights including the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the International Labour Organization´s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. We strive to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and address adverse human rights impacts with which Ericsson is involved. We are committed to implementing the UNGP on Business and Human Rights throughout our business operations. As society’s understanding of the complexity of ICT and human rights deepens, we are fine-tuning our approach to keep pace with new issues and manage emerging risks.

By continually improving our approach to human rights, we are better prepared to confront new issues rising on the agenda and to better manage risks. In ICT and Human Rights, we describe some challenges for the ICT industry.

Defining salient issues

The UNGP Reporting Framework states that a company’s salient human rights issues are those rights that are at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities or business relationships. We have defined our salient human rights issues to be the right to privacy, labor rights and the right to freedom of expression. These are highlighted in our CoBE and CoC. We identify and manage human rights issues in a number of ways, including Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIA) in high-risk countries, stakeholder consultations in conjunction with HRIAs, and internal processes such as sales compliance and responsible sourcing.

Conducting due diligence

The UNGPs require companies to have a human rights due diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights. We have worked with Shift, the leading non-profit center of expertise on the UNGPs, to systematically embed a human rights framework across our company since 2012. This work significantly strengthened our due diligence processes within sales, sourcing, legal affairs, mergers and acquisitions, and operations.

Training and awareness raising

Raising employee awareness about human rights is key to our approach. We have a human rights and business e-learning available for all employees and it is mandatory training for certain functions, including Legal Affairs, Security and from the end of 2017 also Corporate Audit. The training describes human rights issues, opportunities and challenges for Ericsson, international requirements, and key concepts used in the business and human rights framework.

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. Our Privacy by design approach encompasses both our corporate IT network and products. The framework requires that privacy is consid­ered from the outset of any product release as an integral part of product development. Man­datory privacy impact assessments are used to assess and manage privacy-related risks in our products. As part of our approach to man­aging human rights across our business, we integrate human rights due diligence into the Ericsson's sales compliance process.

Human rights impact assessment

Our Human rigths impact assessment (HRIA) process considers potential adverse human rights impacts that Ericsson may cause or contribute to through our own activities, or which may be directly linked to our operations, products or services via our business relationships. The aim is to ensure that we respect human rights within the scope of our business operations and analyze the social, operational and human rights context for doing business in a country. Over the years, we have carried out HRIAs in a number of countries starting with Sudan in 2009, and then continuing with Myanmar in 2013–14, Iran in 2014–15, Ethiopia in 2015–16, and other selected countries. Our HRIAs address all our salient human rights issues (right to privacy, freedom of expression and labor rights), and our experiences of carrying them out have provided us with valuable insights about how these issues arise and how they can be mitigated.

Sales compliance process

We have integrated human rights due diligence into our sales process to help us assess, prevent and mitigate potential negative impacts on the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy – two of our most salient human rights issues. Specifically, we aim to reduce the risk that third-parties use our technology, services and knowledge directly or indirectly in a way that impacts negatively on these human rights. Sales opportunities are evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Portfolio: Whether the sale includes sensitive products, services and knowledge
  2. Purpose: The purpose and context in which the customer intends to use the product, service or knowledge
  3. Customer: The type and ownership structure
  4. Country: We use a third-party risk analytics firm to rank the countries according to risk and selected indices such as the Right to Privacy and Freedom of Speech, as well as Democratic Governance and Corruption. In addition, we routinely follow international developments.

In 2017, we integrated our automated sales compliance tool into our global sales management system, which is fully integrated into our sales process. As a result, our sales compliance process covers sales and business engagements around the world, with every sales opportunity automatically screened for potential risks.

Relevant Ericsson Group companies directly affected by the UK Modern Slavery Act arrange for local approvals of the Group statement. Signed versions will be available on file and a copy of the statement will be made available by the relevant Ericsson Group company to anyone who makes a written request for one.

Learn more about this topic in our latest Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility report