Socially Responsible Public Procurement - Office supplies

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

Risks of human rights breaches

Office supplies include a broad variety of products such as different kinds of pens and markers, metal supplies like staplers and punchers, paper products and other disposable objects. 

As the supply chains are complex and fragmented across the world, traceability is limited. On a general level, risks connect to manufacturing including both assembly and component production, as well as to the extraction of raw materials. This is mainly a consequence of production being heavily located in China and other Asian countries where low wages, excessive overtime, health and safety issues and the exploitation of migrant workers are common. There are reports of the office supplies industry in China confirming these general risks, even including examples of child labour.

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

Risk assessment on human rights issues in the production of office supplies (pdf.)
pdf 906.41 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 office 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
Office supplies Medium-high risk High risk High risk
Batteries High risk High risk Very high risk
Whiteboards Low risk Medium-high risk High risk
Ballpoint pens Medium-high risk High risk High risk
Staples and paper clips Medium-high risk Medium-high risk High risk
Toner cartridges Medium-high risk Medium-high risk High risk
Calendars Medium-high risk High risk High risk

Guidance for use of SRPP instruments when purchasing furniture 

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 office supplies. The risk level suggest use of the socially responsible public procurement (SRPP) instruments to promote human rights during the production process in the supply chain of office supplies.

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 batteries, ball point pens (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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