Human rights Embedding human rights throughout our business

ABB’s actions are guided by the knowledge that human rights impact every link in the value chain

Woman handing over her passport (photo)

Everyone who works for us, either as a direct ABB employee or indirectly through our supply chain, is expected to behave with respect for the dignity of the individual and for the importance of each individual’s human rights. ABB fully acknowledges its responsibility to abide by the International Bill of Human Rights, and is committed to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In addition, the ABB Supplier Code of Conduct, the ABB Policy Combating Trafficking in Persons, and our Human Rights Policy emphasize that ABB does not tolerate modern slavery or human trafficking.

Since our first formal Human Rights Policy was published in 2007, we have worked to integrate these principles into our decision-making processes and included them in many of our due diligence activities, including the risk review process for screening major projects.

Major human rights issues of interest to our external stakeholders include conflict minerals, human trafficking and child labor. We work to ensure our policies and principles regarding these and other topics are implemented and observed along our value chain. In particular, this means engaging with our employees and our supply chain partners to raise awareness and improve performance where needed.

Case study Combating modern slavery

Reveal case study

The ABB Supplier Sustainability Development Program (SSDP) continues to raise awareness about the risks of modern slavery in the supply chain. During 2018, an on-site SSDP assessment identified an instance of modern slavery at a large supplier.

The supplier, a large electronics manufacturer in Malaysia, maintains third party-certified quality and environmental management systems. More than 90 percent of its workforce consists of migrant workers, with a high proportion of female workers. The migrant workers are housed in on-site dormitories. A third-party employment agency manages the dormitory and pays worker salaries.

During the first on-site SSDP assessment of this supplier, the ABB auditor discovered that the company routinely retained the passports of the migrant workers “for safe keeping.” Further, when the workers applied for the return of their passports, the employment agency retained one month of salary until the worker returned to the employer.

The supplier was immediately informed that this practice was unacceptable for ABB, and was provided with a list of mandatory corrective actions. ABB took no new business with the supplier until we received the supplier’s commitment to implement the required actions.

ABB will revisit the facility in the first quarter of 2019 to ensure that these corrective actions have been completed.

Close case study

Our 2020 target for human rights is to conduct two training campaigns per year for employees whose roles expose them to human rights risks. In 2018, we made good progress toward this target, providing face-to-face human rights training sessions for 60 members of ABB’s HSE/SA network. These colleagues are managers and specialists who support and guide ABB businesses in the areas of health, safety, environment, security and corporate responsibility.

We also provided specialist training to the regional coordinators of ABB’s Supplier Sustainability Development Program (SSDP), enabling them to better support their local SSDP colleagues and suppliers in program implementation, risk analysis and problem solving. Additionally, we started work to incorporate human rights topics into the competence development programs for ABB’s marketing and sales managers.

In 2018, ABB continued the capacity-building program for its human rights champions network. To complement the training materials already available, we created a detailed development curriculum to guide their study of the legal and normative frameworks relating to the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, as well as how to identify, prioritize and avoid risks, based on examples from the business. The curriculum, which involves homework assignments, research and collaboration with other members of the learning cohort, will be rolled out in 2019.

Young women smiling (photo)

In 2018, we also continued to map internal processes related to risk identification and risk assessment and to improve the way in which human rights and broader sustainability considerations are embedded in day-to-day business analysis and decision-making processes. This work will be reinforced and expanded in 2019 by members of ABB’s human rights champions network.

ABB continues to work to limit our exposure to conflict minerals and assist industry-wide efforts to source minerals from legitimate mines that do not contribute to human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In May 2018, we filed our fifth Conflict Minerals Report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. For the fourth year running, ABB was recognized for responsible sourcing of minerals by an independent benchmark study, “Mining the Disclosures 2018” from the Responsible Sourcing Network.

ABB recognizes that the increasing sophistication of automated systems will have far-reaching implications for work and employment. In addition to examining the potential impacts of digitalization on our own workforce, we sponsored research by the Economist Intelligence Unit to assess how well-prepared 25 countries are for the challenges and opportunities of intelligent automation. The findings highlighted the need for a systematic policy response by government, as well as the importance of engagement and collaboration between different sectors of society.

As part of our collaborative efforts, ABB signed a Pledge to America’s Workers, further committing the company to enhancing career opportunities for each of its 24,000 workers in the United States through an initiative that complements ABB’s employee development and leadership efforts worldwide.