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Human Rights at Intel: Building a Framework of Responsibility (Part 1)

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Human Rights at Intel (Part 1): Building a Framework of Responsibility


With employees, suppliers, and customers around the world, the matter of global human rights is a significant priority at Intel. Our values are not mere talking points, they are the foundation upon which we do business.

In the first of a three-part series in honor of Human Rights Month, we asked Suzanne Fallender, Director of Corporate Responsibility, and Kelli Schlegel, Corporate Responsibility & Human Rights Manager, to share their insights into the robust framework of policies that uphold our guiding principles and provide a benchmark for accountability.

Tell us about your team and the work you do in support of human rights.

Suzanne Fallender: Our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) office works across the business where there might be corporate responsibility or human rights-related issues, risks, and opportunities. Our team works as an advisor and a connector across many different parts of the company, from operations to manufacturing, supply chain to products.

We also manage the process for understanding external expectations around human rights and how those are really shifting and changing from investors, customers, and the general public. There is increasing pressure on companies to address these issues and have human rights policies.

Kelli Schlegel: In June of 2011, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were launched. It said that governments have a responsibility to protect human rights, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, and both have a joint responsibility to remedy any particular issues.

From a business perspective, we have a responsibility to respect human rights. Per the expectations set forth by the UN Guiding Principles, we should have a policy, due diligence process, grievance mechanism, and a process to remedy issues.

The UN Guiding Principles aren’t a mandate --they are guidelines. However, Investors, Customers, NGOs and other stakeholders expect companies to implement the UN Guiding Principles. Those companies with strong ethics and a strong sense of CSR and reputation are those that have started implementing them.

What is Intel’s Human Rights Policy?  

Schlegel: Since 2009, we’ve had a policy called the Human Rights Principles  which confirms Intel’s respect for human rights and addresses many of the areas where we have potential risk, such as in our supply chain. Supply chain risks include forced and bonded labor, working hours, legal wages, health and safety, discrimination, and conflict minerals.

We’re currently in the process of updating the policy to respond to increased expectations and best practices we see being adopted by our customers and other leading companies. We are also updating based on the results from a corporate-wide human rights impact assessment in 2016. We engaged a third party to interview people throughout the business and throughout many different regions to confirm our most salient human rights risks.

Fallender: We’ve seen a significant increase in third party impact assessments and more robust processes around human rights over the last several years. So as you look at what is expected of companies and what leadership in this area looks like, being able to complete [the assessment] helps us manage the issues better because we understand where the risks may be and it helps us respond more proactively.

Did the assessment data shift our priorities on any issues?

Schlegel: It did shift the priorities a little bit from our office’s viewpoint. Much of the risk identified was [as anticipated] related to the supply chain, but we also discovered new technology areas that we need to focus on, such as the potential impact of artificial intelligence and autonomous driving on human rights. That’s one of the projects I’m working on now.

Over the last 18 months the conversations around these emerging technologies has come to the forefront – investors, general public, NGOs, and customers are starting to ask about potential risks and how we plan to address them. So we now have a number of people looking at this in a way they weren’t even a year and a half ago.

Fallender: Importantly, people are also looking at the potential opportunities for these technologies to help in human rights and corporate responsibility areas.

Schlegel: The one that really comes to mind is how Intel is using artificial intelligence to help the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We’ve also used drones recently after the Napa fires and in Houston during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. There are a lot of great things that can be done using this technology.

What is Intel’s role in helping shape wider human rights policies around the use of these emerging technologies?

Fallender: Intel’s Global Policy Group is actively involved in looking at the evolving role of artificial intelligence and engage and understand what policy makers are thinking in this space, as well as educating them on the technologies – what they are, how they’re changing, and who in the industry is looking at the issues related to them.

Schlegel: The Global Policy Group published a blog around this. They argue that it has to be done in an ethical way, and the blog explains our approach in greater detail. There are also some industry collectives such as the Partnership on AI where companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Intel, and more are coming together to discuss the ethics of these new technologies.

The Partnership on AI was just formed about a year ago, but they gained a significant number of companies in the last six months and they have a board as well that helps guide the strategy. We’re interested in contributing to the work of this coalition that aims to benefit people and society as these emerging technologies become more mainstream.

Check back with us next week for Part 2 of Human Rights at Intel: Our Policies in Action.

Still curious about Intel’s Corporate Responsibility efforts? Learn more here.

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