As Head of Human Rights for Nokia, December 10 is one of the most important days in our calendars: Human Rights Day. On this day in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
This declaration set out, for the first time ever, fundamental human rights to be universally protected: 48 countries voted in favour of it and it has been translated into over 500 languages.
In this blog post, I describe Nokia’s approach to respecting Human Rights, focusing on how we tackle our most salient risk to human rights. I’ll also cover the complexities and challenges that we face whilst doing so. Firstly, I am delighted to launch the updated version of our Human Rights policy. This updated policy recognizes and reflects Nokia's expanded solution portfolio. Nokia’s full human rights pages are here.
Creating the technology to connect the world
Nokia supplies communication equipment and services to telecom service providers (operators), public sector enterprises in over 130 countries. At the end of 2018 our equipment provided to our customers served 6.1 billion subscriptions. We fundamentally believe that connectivity and the technologies we provide are a social good that can support human rights by enabling free expression, exchange of ideas, education and economic development. Simply put, our technology allows billions of people around the world to communicate and access information and we are proud of this.
Whilst we embrace fully our technological advancements, we are humbled by the responsibility that comes with this.
Identifying Human Rights risks
Technology can be misused for a purpose that was not intended when created, including to infringe on human rights. For Nokia, the most salient risk to human rights is the potential misuse of our technology to infringe on the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
That doesn’t mean these are the only risks. As with most large global enterprises, there are human rights to uphold right along our entire value chain, from supply chain to our own operations.
At Nokia we advocate the highest principles of business ethics and corporate governance and we have clear procedures, guidelines and processes with which we engage our suppliers and our own employees to ensure respect of human rights in these areas.
Complexities and challenges of being a tech pioneer
Dealing with how our technology could be misused is a complex issue. This issue becomes even more intricate when the ownership and control of the technology is given to the buyer once sold and Nokia typically has no special access to it anymore. And that’s not all, the level of complexity increases when we’re talking about constantly evolving technology that is used for communication crossing countries, continents and cultures.
So how can we manage to pioneer this technology but keep respect for human rights at the centre of everything we do?
Our Human Rights Due Diligence
Firstly, as mentioned above, we have a clear policy where we outline our commitments to Human Rights. Secondly, we are the first telecommunications equipment vendor to implement a pre-emptive and rigorous Human Rights Due Diligence process that allow us to make informed decisions before a sale is made.
At Nokia all potential sales go through a mandatory pre-screening approval process where we look at various aspects of the sale: notably, we take into consideration the country in which the customer operates and the nature of the offered technology and its potential for misuse. When a risk is identified, Human Rights risk screening is done completely independently of the sales team and without consideration of the monetary value of the transaction and purely based on potential effects on Human Rights.
This pre-screening gives us the ability to put extra conditions on the sale, for example, to ensure technically the solution can be used only in its intended way or allows us to deny the sale if we believe that there is no way to eliminate the risk that the proposed use case would infringe on human rights.
We believe our human rights due diligence process is a best practise in the industry and we are the only telco vendor who transparently publishes examples of real outcomes of this process - those are available in the Human Rights section of our People and Planet Report.
Transparent and Active
Finally, we aim to be transparent and active by working with key industry stakeholders including, amongst others, through membership in the Global Network Initiative (GNI). GNI is a unique multi-stakeholder group involving leading ICT companies, investors, academics and civil society groups. Nokia is a Board member of GNI and as part of board membership, Nokia undertakes an independent assessment on our Human Rights approach.
In October 2019 Nokia completed its first ever GNI assessment by the independent assessor Foley Hoag LLP. Nokia is honoured to report that the GNI Board found Nokia has made good faith efforts over time to implement the GNI Principles on freedom of expression and privacy. A full statement will be released in early 2020 after the publication of the formal GNI report on the 2018/2019 assessments of GNI companies.
Looking to the future
I am extremely proud of our company approach to respecting human rights. However, we are not perfect. Looking at the best way to respect Human Rights cannot be a static process. We 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 of us such as how can we make solutions that harness the best of Artificial Intelligence; how do we ensure that our technologies used for digitalisation and automation respect human rights?
We don’t 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.
Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #humanrightsday #sustainability