HP, Dell and IBM Team Up on Social Responsibility

The three computer companies issue a jointly developed code of conduct-covering labor practices, environmental protection, safety and more-that will be enforced among all of their suppliers.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM are well-known for working on technical standards, but on Thursday the three vendors issued a collaboratively developed document meant to set standards in the nontechnical area of social responsibility.

Their new Electronics Industry Code of Conduct applies to all suppliers in the global supply chain, whether these suppliers sell electronics components or paper plates, for instance.

"These standards are for the entire extended supply base—not just to our contract suppliers, but to the suppliers below them," Mike Fawkes, senior vice president of operations at Hewlett-Packard Co., said in an interview with eWEEK.com.

Specific areas covered by the code of conduct include labor and employment practices, ethics, environmental protection, and health and safety. For example, the code places universal bans on child labor and employment discrimination, regardless of where on the globe a suppliers facilities are located.

Aside from HP, Dell Inc. and IBM, other collaborators on the new social responsibility standard included electronics suppliers Flextronics, Jabil, Sanmina SCI, Celestica and Solectronic.

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Before the creation of the standard, HP, Dell and IBM had each used their own conduct codes and verification and enforcement procedures with their respective supplier bases.

"We [at HP] have performed at least 100 [verification] audits over the past year, and we will continue to expand on those audits," Fawkes told eWEEK.com.

HP plans to realign all of its processes and tools to the newly revised code by 2005, according to Fawkes.

Why did the vendors decide to set the standard? Using a common code around social responsibility issues will introduce efficiencies for all companies involved, Stan Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation and IBMs vice president of corporate community relations, said in an interview with eWEEK.com.

"This also gives us an opportunity to convince our overall supply base that [social responsibility] is good business," he said.

HPs Fawkes pointed to what he called "the strength of the signal." Suppliers will listen, he said, "when you have major OEMs like HP, IBM and Dell all using the same criteria."

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