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Electronics Industry Supply Chain. Ruth Rosenbaum, TC PhD CREA. Question: Who is Responsible?. In many countries, local and national governments are responsible for the labor laws and the environmental laws under which factories operate and workers work.

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Electronics Industry Supply Chain

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Electronics industry supply chain

Electronics IndustrySupply Chain

Ruth Rosenbaum, TC PhD


Question who is responsible

Question: Who is Responsible?

In many countries, local and national governments are responsible for the labor laws and the environmental laws under which factories operate and workers work.

BUT in many other countries, governments do not govern to protect their people (the workers and their communities) and the environment.

Question of responsibility

Question of Responsibility

  • When governments do not govern to protect workers and the environment, the question arises: who has the power to create the standards under which factories and businesses operate?

  • The whole system of Codes of Conduct, Compliance programs, audits, etc. is needed BECAUSE governments do not govern to protect their people, their communities and the environment.

Power of the corporations

Power of the Corporations

  • We require corporations to be accountable for this “governing” because:

    1. They have the power to effect


    2. Shareholders and consumers hold

    them accountable.

Why we are interested in supply chains

Why we are interested in supply chains

  • Years ago, companies owned and operated the factories and systems which produced their products.

  • They could decide and enforce the labor standards within those factories.

  • However even then, these companies did not produce the materials from which their products were made.

The old apparel industry

The Old Apparel Industry

  • Company X owned the factories and mills that manufactured their products. Even then, however, they bought the buttons, zippers, thread, etc. from other companies.

  • These other companies were their suppliers

  • However because these suppliers were relatively local, the apparel company know how these other factories were being run.

Supply chains in the global economy

Supply Chains in the Global Economy

  • Materials can originate almost anywhere in the world.

  • Assembly can take place almost any place in the world.

  • In the apparel sector, a garment is marked “made in country x”. It is simple.

There is nothing simple about the electronics sector

There is nothing simple about the Electronics Sector

  • Electronic instruments, e.g. computers, can only be marked “assembled in country x”.

  • Essentially the inside of any computer is like the United Nations.

  • To illustrate the complexity of the Electronics Supply Chain, CREA staff disassembled an old computer to see who made which components where.

The computer

The Computer

CD drive

CD/DVD writer

Power Supply

Floppy Drive

Intel Chip

Ports attached to motherboard

Gateway computer



Once we go inside we see

Once we go inside, we see…

Power Supply

Wire harness


Major computer components

Major Computer Components

Power Supply

CD/DVD writer

CD drive

Hard drive

Floppy Drive

Mother Board

Complexities inside the components

Complexities inside the Components

And then there is the monitor

And then there is the monitor…

Gateway monitor

But again when we opened it

But again, when we opened it…

Going deeper we found

Going deeper, we found…

Major components

Major Components

  • Hard drives:Seagate, Western Digital

  • CD/DVD drives: Liteonit

  • Motherboards:

  • Batteries: Maxell (Hitachi)

  • Wire harnesses: Lucent

  • Processor Chips: AMD, Intel

  • Memory (RAM):

Major manufacturers

Major Manufacturers


Western Digital Solectron




AMDSCI Sanmina

IntelElta Electronics

and others…

Supply chain example

Supply Chain Example


Capacitors ChipsCircuitsMemory

With separate supply chains for the monitors, keyboards, mice, etc.

Electronics industry supply chain

What has the Brand Name on it

is the result of the work

of many workers

in many countries.

The underlying problems

The Underlying Problems

  • The labor issues found in any assembly factory in any industry: wages, working hours, etc.

  • Health issues related to:

    • Repetitive motion injuries

    • Exposure to solvents during assembly

    • Exposure to other chemicals, including heavy metals, during assembly

Environmental issues during assembly

Environmental Issuesduring assembly

  • Exposure of workers to chemicals used in assembly process

  • Disposal of chemicals used during assembly – possible environmental and community contamination

Toxic chemical exposure during production

Toxic Chemical Exposure during production

Many toxic substances are used during the production of electronics components.

These include, but are not limited to:

Brominated flame, retardants, cadmium, mercury, lead, tantalum, epoxy, copper, isopropyl alcohol, hexavalent chromium.

Effects of exposure can include cancer, nervous system problems, brain damage, blood diseases, etc.

Environmental issues disposal

Environmental IssuesDisposal

Disposal of plastics (non-biodegradability)

Disposal of hazardous wastes

Recycling realities and questions

RECYCLINGrealities and questions

  • Some computers are recycled to groups and communities who are beginners on computers.

  • Basic computers differ only in terms of speed, storage space and RAM (think of it as desk top space)



  • Different programs require different speeds, sizes of hard drives (storage) and RAM (space for active working).

  • As programs become more complex, the computers needed to run them must be more complex.

Computer operating systems windows et al

Computer Operating Systems: Windows, et al

  • In addition, each operating systems version, whether for Windows for Apple, places demands on the speed, storage and RAM of the computers.

Effect on recycling

Effect on Recycling

  • While some components are recycle-able, many are not, simply because computers need the operating systems and software to run them.

Types of recycling

Types of Recycling

  • Components

  • Use of whole systems by groups

  • Export of computers to developing countries

    NOTE: This last requires


Recycled computers in developing countries

Recycled computers in developing countries

  • Many computers and components are not usable.

  • Unusable computers and components end up in garbage dumps.

  • Heavy metals in computer components contaminate the communities’ land and water.

Our work in the electronics sector

Our Work in the Electronics Sector

  • Labor rights issues

  • Environmental exposure issues during production

  • Environmental issues related to waste disposal during production

  • Environmental issues related to recycling

  • Examining the programs, policies and practices of the companies from which we buy our computers and other electronics equipment

Electronics industry supply chain

These are not just contract supplier issues but also issues related to

- Human Rights

- Environmental Justice

- Sustainability

Core questions

Core Questions

  • To whom does the EICC apply?

  • If the suppliers of components are multinational corporations themselves, how do we influence these corporations?

  • How far down an electronics supply chain does a brand have influence? power? control?

Electronics industry supply chain

These are not just questions of which companies are in which tiers but rather getting at the locations in the manufacture/assembly/ supply chain

where we can realistically have influence.

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