Answer given by Mr Tajani on behalf of the Commission
The Commission has followed with concern the media reports on the suicides of Foxconn employees in China.
Earlier in 2011, the Commission published a report by CREM BV and the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) on responsible supply-chain management which includes a section on the electronics industry and in particular mobile phones(1). It has also recently published an analysis by the University of Edinburgh of the legal framework for human rights and the environment applicable to European Union companies when they operate outside the EU(2).
Both these studies will feed into the Commission’s considerations on the how to better implement the Guiding Principles of the United Nations Business and Human Rights Framework. The Commission expects to present a new communication on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) later in 2011, and the United Nations (UN) Business and Human Rights Framework is one issue likely to be addressed in that context. This framework is designed to provide a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.
The Commission and Member States have actively contributed to the update of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for multinational enterprises(3). The updated Guidelines, adopted in May 2011, integrate the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and provide guidance for companies to apply due diligence throughout their supply chains.
Moreover, the Commission is committed to promoting decent work in bilateral and regional relations with its partners, and within the relevant international fora at multilateral level, notably the ILO (International Labour Organisation) as the key body for setting and monitoring international labour standards. The EU contribution to decent work throughout the world is part of its efforts to strengthen the social dimension of globalisation, both in the EU and abroad. It is driven by mutually reinforcing economic, employment, social and environmental policies, in line with the EU 2020 strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.
In addition, the Commission has, over the past years, strongly developed its dialogue and cooperation with China in employment and social affairs. In the area of Occupational Safety and Health in particular, a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese State Administration for Work Safety was signed on 30 January 2009, setting up a policy dialogue aiming at promoting and enhancing mutual understanding related to health and safety at work.
The Commission itself does not have the mandate or resources to audit social and environmental standards in company supply chains.