Human Rights at Intel: Our Policies in Action  (Part 2)

We caught up with Suzanne Fallender, Director of Corporate Responsibility, and Kelli Schlegel, Corporate Responsibility & Human Rights Manager, to find out how Intel policies and education initiatives help shift behaviors and better protect human rights in the supply chain and beyond.

What impact do Intel policies have on human rights?

Suzanne Fallender: The supply chain is a good example of impact, especially the work we’ve done to around forced and bonded labor. The issue of forced and bonded labor in the supply chain is one that a lot of people don’t readily think of as human trafficking or even what that really means. What does it mean if a supplier holds a worker’s passport until they repay fees they charged you to help you secure your job? That’s a human rights issue.

What we’ve found is that a lot of times the suppliers didn’t realize that it was a problem and that some of these practices could have a human rights impact. So by asking these questions and educating companies in the supply chain, we’ve been able to have measureable impact on people’s lives. The supply chain team has worked to return fees that shouldn’t have been charged to workers by suppliers. Since 2014, our supply chain team has helped secure the return of – I believe it was $3.5 million – in fees to workers by suppliers in our supply chain.

Kelli Schlegel: Yes, it’s actually over $3.5 million now, and the number of people we’ve helped is over 20,000. The numbers keep climbing as we continue to work with suppliers – educating them, auditing them, and holding them accountable for repaying fees and getting workers out of forced conditions.

How do we hold the supply chain accountable for long-term change?

Schlegel: Oftentimes the challenges will be identified during an audit. The team then ensures the supplier has a corrective action plan in place to address the issues. The type of issue dictates how quickly the issue is resolved. If it’s an egregious issue, they might have 30 days to correct it. If something less egregious, they might have 3 months to correct course.

Fallender: Immediate safety concerns are fixed on the spot.

Schlegel: Yes, for very egregious issues the supplier has to respond very quickly. We inform them they need to resolve the issue. If they do not cooperate, there are a couple of things we can do. We can put them on a business hold or we can terminate our contractual relationship with them as a supplier. That’s the last resort. Terminating a supplier relationship can have a more significant [negative] impact on the workers, so we work with the suppliers to make sure all of the erroneous actions are corrected and the workers have much better conditions.

Fallender: The other piece about holding ourselves accountable is transparency. One of the things we do is report on these activities: the numbers of audits, the types of findings, what we’ve done to address concerns with specific suppliers. And we set goals that we track our progress to as well.

What might surprise people about Intel and human rights?

Schlegel: While people understand that Intel has a very responsible supply chain, I’m not sure they know that our supply chain responsibility team has taken such a strong position and had great impact.

Fallender: Our efforts in this area are part of the reason we won the Stop Slavery Award, in addition to the work we do with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children using AI to combat and prevent human trafficking.

Also how we really do look at the issues as system-level issues and how we focus on capacity building and education. There’s been a shift in the focus on supply chain responsibility in the last few years to investing in resources to help suppliers come along. You don’t just want to solve one-on-one issues, but look at the root cause and invest in long-term behavioral change and system-level change.

What are some of the ways we’re doing that? What does that look like in action? 

Schlegel: The supply chain responsibility team has a website where suppliers can access and understand what their responsibilities are as a supplier of Intel. Additionally, the team hosts a webinar once a month for suppliers on a range of topics, depending upon interest or need. We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of suppliers attending them. We’ve partnered with other companies in the industry to present onsite sessions and talk about issues like forced and bonded labor or employee working hours.  So there are webinars, periodic onsite meetings with suppliers in various regions, and documented responsibilities and guidelines.

Do we have other programs that address human rights?

Schlegel: In the last several months we’ve developed a human rights steering group that pulls together people across the business who have responsibility for each of our salient human rights risks. The goal of that team is to think through these issues and enable a broader discussion that gets everybody at Intel thinking about these challenges, how we address them, and how we respect human rights.

What’s your final takeaway on business responsibility to human rights?

Schlegel: This isn’t something that can be done part time. [Human rights] is a commitment. Companies need to make a commitment to it and also commit to continually assessing what the challenges are as their business changes and evolves.

Fallender: And the most important thing with something like this, as with most corporate responsibility topics and issues, is making sure that over time it gets embedded into processes and the culture of the company so that it just becomes part of what everybody does. And that’s already happening here at Intel.

If you missed the first of our three-part series on human rights at Intel, you can read it here.

Make sure to check back next week for the final part in our series Human Rights at Intel: A Community of Inclusion and Respect.


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