Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


IT firms share audit data in bid to end duplication

December 2007

Some of the world’s largest telecoms and information technology companies have begun sharing information on the results of their ethical supply chain audits.

The 24 businesses, which are all members of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), are posting their audit data on a secure site so that those with suppliers in common can view the results and develop action plans.

The results of 20 audits have been posted, and 40 more will be added soon. The system is managed on GeSI’s behalf by supplier management company Achilles, with Achilles owning the online tool and the companies retaining ownership of the data.

In addition, GeSI members – which include BT, Ericsson, France Telecom, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nokia and Verizon – are conducting shared audits of suppliers using a pool of independent monitors.

Luis Neves, chair of GeSI and senior manager of corporate sustainability and citizenship at member company Deutsche Telekom, told EP that the online tool and audit sharing would have ‘huge benefits’. He said: ‘Now five or six companies can use just the one auditor, which saves a lot of time and money. It also pleases the suppliers because they don’t have so many time-consuming monitoring visits.’

GeSI believes that the system may provide a useful template for other sectors grappling with ethical supply chain and auditing issues. A similar but entirely separate project has been developed with the aid of a group of British retailers. Data on supplier performance from Sedex, which is run by Impactt, a UK-based ethical trading consultancy, is now being used by 169 companies worldwide, including Cadbury Schweppes, Chiquita Brands International, Diageo, H.J. Heinz, Levi Strauss, Northern Foods and United Biscuits, according to its latest annual report. Membership has doubled over the last year and more than than half of the not-for-profit’s expenditure is currently on IT and product development.

GeSI was formed in 2001 in conjunction with the UN Environment Programme (Unep) to help telecoms and IT companies improve their social and environmental performance. Unep still provides a secretariat, but GeSI will be floated off as a self-managing entity in 2008 with offices in Brussels and the US.

Membership now stands at more than 20 companies, with Telenor (Norway) and Teliasonera (Sweden) the latest entrants.

At present GeSI is running a project on materiality with US-based Business for Social Responsibility, gauging stakeholders’ views on which social and environmental issues should be given priority by telecoms and IT companies. Conclusions will be published next year.

It has also asked The Climate Group, a UK-based non-profit body, and McKinsey to assess the IT sector’s impact on climate change. The results of that €1.2million ($1.76m, £840,000) study are expected to be released in February.

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