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Stephen Shankland


Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell joined a host of electronics makers Thursday in an effort to promote a unified code of socially responsible business practices across the world.

The new Electronics Industry Code of Conduct governs areas such as labor practices, health and safety and environmental protection.

The code replaces several codes used before, making it easier for suppliers to comply and for auditors to check that compliance, HP said in a statement. Any electronics supplier is free to adopt the code, and HP expects other companies to do so.

Among the requirements of the code: Bribes, embezzlement and extortion are prohibited; intellectual property must be protected; child labor is prohibited; wasted water and energy must be minimized; hazardous materials must be handled safely; pollutants must be monitored and treated; and occupational injuries must be reported.

Several electronics manufacturers collaborated in writing the code, including Celestica, Flextronics, Jabil, Sanmina-SCI and Solectron.

“We’re raising socially responsible business practices to a high level of visibility in our industry,” HP spokeswoman Monica Sarkar said. “When you have some of the biggest players in the industry (both manufacturers and suppliers) signing on and backing it up, others will inevitably also want to join.”

All HP suppliers will be required to follow the code, though there is some leeway in the process of reaching compliance, HP said. Noncompliance will bring severe consequences: “We are completely prepared and have terminated relationships with suppliers we find to be repeatedly nonresponsive,” Sarkar said.

HP has assessed more than 150 of its 350 suppliers, and the other 200 are under way. The company will finish auditing 50 factories in China, Mexico, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe by the end of October and will perform 50 more by the year after that, the company said.