TCO Development, a global sustainability certification agency of information technology, has launched a probe into its decision to accord sustainability certification to the GALAXY S4, the flagship smartphone of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., the Stockholm-based agency said in a press release on June 5.
TCO’s decision came one day after a joint call made by global sustainability and workplace safety advocates to rescind TCO Certified, the Swedish agency’s brand certification, for Samsung’s latest smartphone. The GALAXY S4 is the first smartphone certified by TCO for sustainability. “TCO’s action amounts to ‘greenwashing of the worst kind,’” said Sanjiv Pandita, executive director of Asia Monitor Resource Center in Hong Kong, in a press statement jointly released by SHARPS and twenty-four advocacy groups globally.
In the statement, the activists pointed to the ongoing blood disorder cluster at Samsung and the recent fatal chemical leaks at its semiconductor plant. TCO said it would demand “corrective action of Samsung” if its probe concluded the activists’ accusations “can apply to” the GALAXY S4.
TCO appears unlikely to retract its certification of Samsung unless international pressure further intensifies.
Even with its own criteria for smartphone certification, TCO would find it hard to justify its certification of the GALAXY S4 or its response to the subsequent international criticism of the certification. One criterion stipulates that the applicant for the certification comply with UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 32. A search of “Samsung” and “labor” on Google turns up literally hundreds of news articles and blog entries on Samsung’s recent use of child labor in China.
Samsung’s Glee Amid Its Terrible Sustainability Records
Samsung gleefully received news of its TCO certification. “The demand for environmentally friendly products informed our decision making process when we were creating the GALAXY S4,” said JK Shin, CEO and president of Samsung’s mobile unit, in a press release. “We are delighted to be the first smartphone manufacturer to be TCO Certified as this validates our approach to sustainability.”
However, it is highly likely that the CTO-certified GALAXY S4 is made of chips assembled at the Hwaseong plant where the government turned up 1,934 safety violations in January 2013, and a touchscreen cut to size at the Chonan plant of Samsung Display where Yun Seul-ki passed out on the floor in November 1999, only five months after working with little protective gear.
Explain And Apologize
How and why can any Samsung product be sustainability-certified by any measure? TCO and Samsung owe global consumers an explanation and an apology.
The joint statement in opposition to the TCO certification is initially endorsed by the following groups:
Asia Monitor Resource Center, Hong Kong
SHARPS, South Korea
ICRT: International Campaign for Responsible Technology, San Jose, CA USA
Good Electronics Amsterdam, Netherlands
COSH United States
Hazards Campaign, United Kingdom
Electronics TakeBack Coalition, the United States
Labor Education Foundation, Pakistan
Cereal, Guadalajara, Mexico
Maquiladora Safety and Health Support Network, United States
WorkSafe the United States
Hesperian Health Guides, United States
Labor Action China, Hong Kong
IOHSAD, the Philippines
Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas, USA