From no control to full control?

REPORT | 26 June 2012

In 2012 Swedwatch reviewed how four of Sweden’s leading hobby and tool companies had developed their work regarding supplier responsibility. The study found both improvements and serious shortcomings.

In 2005 and 2006, Swedwatch reviewed the procurements in China by the Swedish companies Clas Ohlson, Biltema and Jula. The report revealed major shortcomings in the companies’ control over working conditions and environmental standards. The companies’ often had very poor knowledge about where their products were manufactured.

In the 2012 report, Swedwatch reviews how four of Sweden’s leading hobby and tool companies, Clas Ohlson, Biltema, Jula and Rusta, have developed their supplier responsibility work. In the report Swedwatch examines the companies CSR-work at policy level and its implementation in the organisation through for example, procurement practices. Swedwatch has also conducted interviews with workers via a local NGO, and made visits to factories in the Guangdong province. It shows that the companies have indeed made improvements but there are still many shortcomings.

Swedwatch was surprised to find hazardous working environments in several factories, which in combination with lack of knowledge and poor health and safety routines constitutes an obvious risk to the workers. The working hours are higher than the law stipulates at all five of the visited factories and much higher at two of the suppliers. The workers have few opportunities to participate in decision-making and the health and safety work is neglected. The combination of rising labour costs and labour shortage increase the risk of hidden production by sub-contractors in Guangdong. Swedwatch found two examples of this within the framework of this study.

Swedwatch welcomes the progress made since the first report in 2005, but believes it is time for the hobby and hardware companies to partially change the focus of their CSR work in order to improve the results. The codes of conduct are only a small part of the serious work needed to secure responsible supply chains and increased participation of employees in the improvement process is vital. Swedwatch, Peace & Love Foundation and Finnwatch, who have produced this report, direct a number of recommendations to the four companies. These include investments in effective complaints mechanisms and training for factory workers, as well as integratingCSR requirements throughout the core processes of the companies.

In September 2012 Swedwatch arranged a Roundtable discussion with the companies and May Wong from Globalisation Monitor from Hong Kong. It was evident that Clas Ohlson and Rusta had taken several steps towards following the recommendations, while Jula and Biltema had not. For more information, please contact Kristina Areskog Bjurling, responsible researcher at Swedwatch.

Made in collaboration with: Peace&Love Foundation