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Case study: How Ericsson respects and promotes human rights

As one of the world’s leading providers of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to service providers, with approximately 40% of the world’s mobile traffic carried through its networks, Ericsson is firmly committed to addressing and integrating human rights across its value chain.  Tweet This!

This case study is based on the 2016 Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Report by Ericsson published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Abstract

Over the past several years, Ericsson has worked to develop and strengthen its human rights framework, to fulfil its responsibility to respect human rights according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). In order to respect and promote human rights Ericsson took action to:

  • adopt and report according to the UNGP
  • define salient human rights issues
  • conduct due diligence
  • raise employee awareness
  • provide remedy

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2016 Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Report Ericsson identified a range of material issues, such as anti-corruption, the right to privacy, product energy performance, responsible sourcing (including materials sourcing), occupational health and safety. Among these, respecting and promoting human rights stands out as a key material issue for Ericsson.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Ericsson engages with:  

Stakeholder Group
Customers
Shareholders
Employees
Suppliers
Governments
Civil society
Non-govern­mental organisations (NGOs)
Industry partners
Media
Academia
Gen­eral public

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Ericsson carried out a survey among its employees and obtained feedback from customers and investors through surveys and dialogue.

What actions were taken by Ericsson to respect and promote human rights?

In its 2016 Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Report Ericsson reports that it took the following actions for respecting and promoting human rights:

  • Adopting and reporting according to the UNGP
  • Since 2011, Ericsson has been working to integrate the UNGP (UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) into its governance framework. In 2016, for the third year, Ericsson implemented the UNGP Reporting Framework, the first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on how they respect human rights, and became the first ICT company to report according to the Framework.
  • Defining salient human rights issues
  • Ericsson has defined its salient human rights issues to be the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and labour rights. Accordingly, these issues are highlighted in its Code of Business Ethics and Code of Conduct. Ericsson identifies and manages these issues through Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIA) in high-risk countries, stakeholder consultations together with HRIAs, and internal processes such as the Sales Compliance Process. HRIAs cover adverse human rights impacts Ericsson may cause or contribute to through its activities, or which may be directly linked to its operations, products and services. In addition, Ericsson’s Privacy Framework ensures that privacy is considered from the beginning of any product release, and is an integral part of product development.
  • Conducting due diligence
  • Since 2012 Ericsson has been collaborating with Shift, a leading non-profit centre of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles, to systematically embed a human rights framework across the company and to strengthen its due diligence processes. Ericsson’s human rights due diligence covers processes within sales, sourcing, legal affairs, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and operations.  
  • Raising employee awareness
  • In 2015 Ericsson launched a human rights and business e-learning training for employees which, from 2016, became mandatory for certain functions such as Legal and Security. The training describes human rights issues, opportunities and challenges for Ericsson, human rights and international requirements, and key concepts used in the business and human rights framework.
  • Providing remedy
  • Under the third pillar of the UN Guiding Principles, both states and companies have roles to play in ensuring victims of business-related rights abuses have access to effective remedy (putting right any harm to people). One way in which Ericsson provides remedy is through the Ericsson Compliance Line, where alleged violations of the Code of Business Ethics, including in relation to human rights, may be reported through a whistleblower tool.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 412-1 Operations that have been subject to human rights reviews or impact assessments

 

Disclosure 412-1 Operations that have been subject to human rights reviews or impact assessments does not correspond to any SDG.

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

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References:

1) This case study is based on published information by Ericsson, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) http://www.fbrh.co.uk/en/global-reporting-initiative-gri-g4-guidelines-download-page

3) https://g4.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx

4) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

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