Socially Responsible Public Procurement - Medical consumables/supplies

Here you find information about generalised risks of human rights breaches in the global supply chains of medical supplies.

Risks of human rights breaches

The medical supplies covered in this category are produced in several countries and regions and to a large extent in countries where there is a high risk of human rights and labour rights violations, such as China, Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand. Supply chains are complex and traceability is general limited partly due to the use of sub-contractors, for example in the production of surgical instruments. However, production can also take place in european countries, where the risk will be significantly lower. 

On a general level, risks are linked to both manufacturing and raw material extraction. Low wages, excessive overtime, lack of union rights, child labour and forced labour are some of the human rights risks. Migrant workers, common in several of the mentioned high-risk countries, particularly face risks of being exploited, ending up in forced labour and being discriminated against. 

Here you can read the whole report on human rights abuses in global supply chains of medical consumables/supplies:

Risk assessment on human rights issues in the production of medical supplies (pdf.)
pdf 830.14 KB

Specific risk assessments 

The table below gives a generalised estimate of the level of risk of human rights abuse in the main tiers of the medical supplies supply chain (raw material extraction; component production and final assembling).  Some products purchased by public procurers in Norway have been selected to exemplify the risk levels. 

Product Assembly Component Raw Material
Medical consumables / supplies High risk High risk High risk
Surgical instruments High risk High risk High risk
Medical disposable gloves High risk High risk High risk
Dressings and plasters Medium-high risk Medium-high risk High risk

Guidance for use of SRPP instruments when purchasing medical consumables/supplies

The level of risk of human rights abuse for the products exemplified reveals that the level of generalised risk of human rights abuse in the supply chains is high in all the tiers for medical consumables/ supplies.  The risk level suggests use of the socially responsible public procurement (SRPP) instruments to promote human rights during the production process in the supply chain of medical supplies. However, if the final assembling occur in low risk countries the risk level will also be low.

Disclaimer: Please notice that the level of risk for human rights abuses could vary for other types of products then the examples above. Furthermore, the risk assessments are based on supply chains for high risk products imported to Norway and the supply chain can look different for products imported to other countries/continents. 

1) Planning the purchase of high risk products 

When using the SRPP instruments, consider the core principles of public procurement: transparency, equal treatment, open competition, and sound procedural management.

Having an open dialogue – communicating expectations on human rights due diligence - with the supplier market is essential to prepare suppliers on the SRPP requirements.

2) Writing the tender documents for the purchase of high risk products 

The length of the contract and the financial value of the transaction should guide decision making towards investing main focus in the contracts with highest financial total value and the longest contract periods.

When having decided which tender documents that should be complemented with SRPP instruments, Norwegian public procurers are adviced to use the Difi high risk management database tool (currently only available in Norwegian).

SRPP special contract clauses  should be added to the tender documents.

It could also be considered to use selection criteria (currently only available in Norwegian) if the level of the market maturity is high (i.e several suppliers have human rights due diligence systems in place at the time of the writing of the tender documents).

3) Contract follow-up 

Using SRPP special contract clauses implies that the public entity shall follow up the contract. During contract follow-up of certain specific products - such as gloves and surgical instruments (see table) - could be selected for more detailed control. Notice that the risk level in the different tiers of the supply chain differs and specific care could therefore be taken at the tiers with the highest risk.

SRPP self-assessment guidance could be used as reference for contract follow-up.

Oppdatert: 3. juni 2022

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