On January 26th, 2013, several NGOs working against sweatshops and poor working conditions have brought an accusation against Samsung for working conditions in Asian factories. It wouldn’t be that much surprising if the accusation was not brought to a French court. In fact, the accusation is not really against the working conditions in Samsung’s suppliers facilities, but for “Misleading advertising”. ( here and there ).This approach is different than the usual exposure in medias. First it is not a simple article or press release. In this case the NGOs can communicate on this topic for the long term, as long as the accusation is running down the legal process. In case of actual trial, they can again show this single case. Moreover, if the trial proved the accusation was right and Samsung to be convicted, it will be easy communication to make confusion between the conviction for misleading advertising and conviction for unacceptable working conditions.
Finally, but it is an important part of the analysis, the accusation is not against the working conditions, but against the brands lying on the current working conditions. It is direct attack against the brand image and its credibility. Consumers could easily doubt of Samsung words on every topics and not only on social compliance once lie proven. Thus the risk is actually not coming only from the lack of management of the working conditions in the suppliers’ facilities, but also of the lack of honesty (actual or assumed) in the communication.
Humility in the communication on the working conditions in developing countries is the direct result of a pragmatic approach. It requires an actual awareness on working conditions and thus avoid too optimistic speeches. Improvements have been impressive in many countries. But that still doesn’t mean factories are compliant with local or international regulations. Once again, a good risk management requires to take into account the results, but also the context, in the production areas as well in the consumers countries. Such approach, linked with an improvement method is the best key for sustainability