Today, Procure IT Fair is launching an online petition calling on institutes of higher education in Europe to take up sustainable procurement of computers. The global electronics industry in characterised by serious labour issues. A demanding work load, long working days and forced overtime are frequently reported, in combination with low wages and lack of freedom of association.

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Procure IT Fair is a consortium of European civil society organisations that promotes sustainable public procurement of IT hardware as a tool to improve working conditions, human rights and environmental protection in the global electronics supply chain.

SOMO is part of this consortium.

“Every fifth desktop computer is purchased by public organisations such as universities“, Sarah Bormann of the German organisation World Economy, Ecology, Development (WEED) points out. “Public institutions have to use their buying power and incorporate social criteria in the procurement of computers to improve the working conditions in the electronics industry.”

The recent scandal of the appalling situation at the Chinese plant of electronics giant Foxconn has shown the urgent need to improve working conditions in the electronics sector. Foxconn, the world’s biggest producer of electronics for consumer brands such as Apple, Hewlett Packard, Nokia and Sony, has been in the media for weeks because of a wave of suicides among its employees. “Foxconn is not an isolated case”, Pauline Overeem of the international GoodElectronics Network stresses. “The lion share of electronic products are produced in low-wage countries under questionable working conditions.”

Working for the improvement of such conditions, Procure IT Fair focuses on sustainable public procurement. “By incorporating stringent social criteria in their tenders, public institutions can contribute substantially to improving working conditions in the computer production and reducing poverty worldwide” underlines Andrea Ben Lassoued of the Austrian organisation Südwind. She points to the positive example of the Swiss city of Zürich where the demand for better working conditions is effectively included in public tenders for IT hardware. A growing number of European countries and cities are turning to sustainable procurement which is a promising development. In the majority of public tenders, however, exclusively technical criteria are considered, instead of also including social and environmental aspects.