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Episode 1: Human Rights Due Diligence

Moderator: Welcome to this series of Nokia Human Rights podcasts. This is our first episode and today we’re covering Nokia’s Due Diligence approach. So that’s Nokia’s approach to Human Rights, the challenges, how Nokia handle those challenges and some real-life examples.

So, joining us Today we have Fiona Cura-Pitre – Nokia Head of Human Rights, Art Saiewitz – who’s our Lead Counsel for Human Rights, and Hatim El-Bouhairi, who’s one of the Sales Heads in Middle East and Africa.

So, Fiona, Human Rights covers a multitude of issues, you know from the supply chain, to freedom of expression, to labor rights and right to privacy amongst other things. Could you please describe the Human Rights potential risks for Nokia as part of our discussion today?

Fiona Cura-Pitre: Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are multiple areas of potential risk related to Human Rights in any global company. We as Nokia, we supply communication technology in well over 100 countries, crossing cultures and continents; we have a large workforce, a complex multi-tiered supply chain, partners, and a large and diverse customer base. And all of those may face potential risk of infringements of Human Rights.

And so therefore we’ve processes, policies and teams covering all these potential risks. We have criteria, standards, and activities, for example, in our supply chain management. And we also have employee policies and practices to ensure our own operations are fully aligned with international Human Rights standards.

However, it is important for us to identify the greatest Human Rights risks to the business – referred to as the most ‘salient risk’. So for Nokia the ‘salient risk’ is the potential misuse of the technologies we provide, particularly in relation to certain lawful interception and security capabilities and activities by governments that relate to the network infrastructure equipment that we supply to telecom operators and enterprises.

Moderator: Ok, turning to Art… let’s focus on this salient risk, this potential misuse of the technology. Can you tell us how we handle this potential misuse risk in the business?

Art Saiewitz: Yes, as Fiona mentioned, Nokia identifies the potential for misuse of technologies as that most salient Human Right’s risk. Our products have considerable societal benefits, but anything can misused. And in our case, these technologies can be misused to conduct surveillance on individuals or groups of people, for intercepting communications illegally, they can be used by governments to use as tools to limit free expression, block access to information, and hinder the exchange of ideas. And it’s not just the traditional networking technologies, but we also look at other things we sell, such as drones, that could be misused in that way. And we are doing research in other areas of concern to Human Rights activists, such as artificial intelligence, and facial and voice recognition technologies.

So, the way we tackle this in our company is a system of three main components. First, a Human Rights policy, then a Human Rights Due Diligence process to implement policy and practicing transparency, including being transparent around our activities and involving ourselves with various stakeholders.

Now Nokia is a communications technology provider – who’s slogan is “we create the technology to connect the world”– and that’s our business. So because we fundamentally believe that more connectivity is better than less; and that the technologies we provide are a social good that can support Human Rights by enabling free expression, access to information, exchange of ideas and support economic development. Our policy is written with all of that in mind, and it outlines our commitment to respect and support Human Rights based on the principles and values laid out by various International standards. For example, the International Bill of Human Rights, Organization of Economic and Co-operative Development standards and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

So, the policy gives us the guideline, and we have a whole process to implement it at the sales point - so that we can understand who we’re selling to and to what use our products might be placed. Let me also mention that our policy is public and available on the company’s website.

Moderator: Thanks Art, that’s great – now you mentioned ‘HRDD’ which is the Human Rights Due Diligence. Fiona, perhaps could you give us an overview of this due diligence approach at Nokia?

Fiona Cura-Pitre: Sure, so our Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD), it’s a way of putting into action – of actually implementing - our Human Rights policy. Now, it’s a pre-emptive rigorous process that goes across the entire company, covering sales as well as R&D. And the purpose is to identify potential misuse risks in our technology before any sale is done or solution developed. Now if we do find risk, we then attempt to find ways to mitigate these risks to ensure compliance with our Human Rights policy.

So, our approach looks at the various aspects of a case such as risk level of the technology generally and how it could potentially be misused, a country’s long-term commitment and record of upholding Human Rights, specific intended use case of the technology and customer type, and we look at all of these together to help identify potential risk early in the process and then trigger the required due diligence investigation. And the Human Rights Due Diligence triggers, they’re a mandatory part of the sales approval process, which means they cannot be bypassed.

Now, when a risk is identified, Human Rights risk screening is done, it’s done completely independently of the sales team. Now this is important because it’s done without consideration of any monetary value of the transaction and purely based on potential impact on Human Rights.

Moderator: So, this sounds good in theory, but can you give some real-world examples of what this actually means, Fiona?

Fiona Cura-Pitre: Okay, so let’s take the example of ‘lawful interception’. Now lawful interception is an internationally recognized legal way for our customers, the communication service providers, to intercept communications running through networks on request of the legal authorities in a given country. In almost all countries around the world, communications providers are required by law to have this in their networks for public safety and security. There are standard ways this is setup and usually in most countries there are laws governing who can actually use this and how. When I stay a standard way - I mean standardization groups such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) or 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) have created standards on how this should be setup. 

Clearly lawful interception is a powerful mechanism and it is open to the risk of misuse. And to be clear, Nokia never carries out lawful interception. We do not own the networks nor have any legal authority or special access to these networks. The lawful interception is done by our customers under legal requirement by the various governments.

However, we do have a part to play as we supply technology to our customers and this technology has to work with this lawful interception function. So, what Nokia does, is we control how our technology works as part of lawful interception, and we ensure that what we offer is limited and within the limitations of our Human Rights policy and in accordance to the standards. In practice, this means we only allow our equipment to be used to respond to legal requests – so passive operation - and we do not actively create or sell anything purposefully designed to analyze, store or post process intercepted data. Our policy also prohibits any business related to active surveillance with intelligence agencies.

So, let’s look at a real case – we were asked last year to supply a customer in a country of extreme risk. We use a third-party risk rating company, Maplecroft Verisk, to risk rate countries for us and to create a Nokia tailored risk rating matrix.  The customer in this case wanted us to supply passive standards based equipment that could respond to lawful intercept requests in their network, but also to supply equipment for a monitoring facility that would actively do the lawful intercept for the authority as well.

Our policy is that we do not supply any active lawful intercept for the monitoring facility for the legal authority, so we declined the sale of the monitoring facility bit for the legal authority completely but allowed the standards based passive equipment that is in the operator networks and that could respond to the intercept requests.

Now our Human Rights policy is set in stone – it’s not something that varies widely from year to year. Of course, if we have a new product or something new in our portfolio, we can update it for those, but the fundamental principles don’t change. This is a company policy and is supported by our top management, CEO and Board. This means “a no is a no” and we walk away. In fact, our website states the percentage of cases that were handled through Due Diligence and the percentages of those that were a “no” and were disallowed.

Moderator: Thank you. That was really interesting to understand how that impacts the sales team, the sales success. So Hatim, what does it really mean from your perspective for sales success when you’re looking at the Human Rights Due Diligence?

Hatim El-Bouhairi: Well in my experience in countries in Middle East and Africa, when dealing with various communications service providers and now enterprises, and as I regularly introduce Nokia and Nokia network offering to new customers and partners, it appears more and more clearly that high ethical standards are a key competitive advantage. This is acknowledged and demanded by our customers no matter which country they’re from and Human right due diligence is a part of that.

Within Nokia sales, we deal with changing business environments and position our pioneering new tech and new use cases all the time. Especially with Enterprise digitalization and the Automation of industries, customers are jumping to the latest technologies for their own local projects and their own local use cases. This is also true for private communication service providers, and government customers.

So, it’s critical for us to ensure that what we’re offering and selling will not infringe on human rights. This facilitates sales and positions Nokia correctly in the market.

Moderator: Can you explain a bit practically what that actually means?

Hatim El-Bouhairi: It means that as part of our sales process and before any contract is signed, the use cases that our networks solutions enable are reviewed systematically and evaluated by our Human Right Due Diligence colleagues - a group of experts validating alignment with Nokia Human Rights policy.

The majority of our solutions are straight forward, maybe we need to put a condition on a right to use or license or change something minor but usually that’s it.

Then of course there are cases that are a “no” which Nokia does not want to do. Honestly - as a salesperson, my job being to sell – my immediate reflex reaction to a “no” would not always be pleasant or favorable. But then, after hearing and understanding the why: it’s clear, preserving our own standards is what’s most critical for the company.

Moderator: Thank you all for your insights. As we come to a close, do any of you have any final words about this subject?

Fiona Cura-Pitre: Yes, maybe I can share a few words to wrap up. This Human Rights is indeed a critical and fascinating topic for us – and I’m really proud of our company’s approach to respecting human rights. However, this isn’t something static. We can never say we’re done. Look at the current situation which requires, nowadays around the world, which requires even greater Human Rights vigilance. So, we – Nokia - must evolve and adapt to change as the world around us evolves and at Nokia we seek to learn and improve at every step.

There are many challenges ahead and we must ensure that our solutions harness the best our technologies but respect for Human Rights remains integral to those technologies.

And we alone, we do not and cannot have all the answers, but I know engaging with the broader stakeholder community is the only way forward and working in a company where respect for Human Rights permeates every aspect of our corporate culture is a good starting point.

Moderator: Okay, thanks team so much for your insights. It’s really interesting and fascinating subject.

And thanks to all our listeners for tuning in to this podcast. It’s the first of our series around Human Rights at Nokia and we will be doing more in the near future so please look out for those. In the meantime, we do have a lot of information available on the Nokia website, so please visit and the Sustainability section to discover some more.

Thank you, bye.