Nintendo Among The Worst Performers In The ‘Slavery Index’

Nintendo Among The Worst Performers In The ‘Slavery Index’

The production methods of the modern technology we take for granted can be a terribly exploitative process. On some level we’re aware of this, but just how bad is it? And who are the worst offenders when it comes to paying workers a decent wage for creating the products we buy and use on a daily basis?

A new analysis by Baptist World Aid Australia took 39 of the world’s leading companies and examined their history on multiple different issues: wages, policies on forced labour, child labour and use of unpaid contractors in an attempt to see which companies were living up to their responsibilities, and which were neglecting them.

It turns out that Nintendo were among the worst, scoring an overall D in the index. Sony managed a little better with a C score, whilst Microsoft were among the top with a B.

Company Grade Company Grade Company Grade Company Grade
Acer B- Hewlett Packard B Microsoft B+ Samsung B
Amazon Kindle D Hisense F Motorola Mobility B SanDisk C-
Apple B+ Hitachi C Motorola Solutions B- Sharp C
Asus D- HTC D Nintendo D Soniq D-
Blackberry C- Huawei D- Nokia B+ Sony C
Canon D- IBM C- Olympus C- TEAC D-
Dell B- Intel B Oracle D TomTom C
Dick Smith Electronics D Kogan D- Palsonic F Toshiba B-
Fujitsu D+ Lenovo D- Panasonic B Woolworths C+
Garmin C LG Electronics B+ Philips C+

Companies were graded on multiple different areas: their policies on working with companies that used child labour, how well they understood the supply chain they were involved with, the ability of the brand to monitor that chain and the degree to which the companies in question supported worker’s rights.

For Nintendo, the evidence is pretty damning. Whilst Sony and Microsoft had policies to help prevent exploitative practices, Nintendo had practically none. In the area of workers rights, Nintendo scored an outright ‘F’ for failing to have a single policy that helped enable workers to bargain, to have a living wage, or to prevent child labour from occurring. Sony were only slightly above Nintendo in this regard, whereas Microsoft appear to have a number of policies in place to help prevent exploitation from occurring.

Pretty damning stuff. But while Nintendo has a terrible track record in this regard, Palsonic, Hisense and Kogan were among those who managed to come off worse in the report.

What’s the solution to this kind of exploitation? It might be hard to hear, but some sort of increase on the price of the products we buy could help, but it’s also about companies taking direct responsibility and becoming more aware of how their own products are produced. Here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later.

You can read the whole report here. Head to Behind the Bar Code for more information.


  • I’m the first to say I’m pretty naive about all this, but does the influence of country and a kind of accepted standard come into it, seeing as though Sony and Nintendo were relatively similar, and Microsoft being a US company faring better? Would there be more expectations on Microsoft, whether socially or by law?

    • Given how much Apple has been in the spotlight for how the Foxconn workers are being treated I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of social obligation being imposed on them.

  • Interesting when you consider that the price point is hurting Microsoft on XBOX One sales. People are furious about a Kinect being included because they assume it drives the price up by an entire $50. I wonder what would happen if Microsoft were to charge $200 more but include a big red ‘this was made 100% fair’ sticker on it, with a detailed, totally transparent report by a third party organisation on how employees in every link on the production chain were treated.
    For the first month or two I don’t think it’d hurt, they always sell out regardless of how much the console costs, but long term I think it’d kill any of the major consoles.

    Although I’m curious, could Microsoft and Sony be operating neck and neck with Microsoft having the benefit of their digital productions smoothing out the average? A friend works for support at Microsoft and from what I understand it’s a huge operation employing Americans in America. Could treating those employees up to the minimum standards required by local laws offset failures to do so overseas? Sort of an A American plus C international = B situation.

    • Companies should be trumpeting these things from the hills – let us know as consumers that these extra considerations and costs are part of the product we buy.
      If I was looking at two very similar items in price and capability, the one with the better rating on this scale will be worthy of greater consideration. Microsoft should be marketing the hell out of this as a product differentiator over Sony.

      • Treat it like Free Range labelling on chicken, there I’m happy to pay more if I can think the chicken actually saw the sun and had some fresh air before it died rather than living miserably in a cage in a warehouse with a dozen other chickens pecking each other to death until the hormones, steroids & natural selection made the survivors large enough to qualify for slaughter.

        Similarly with technology, I’d not mind paying a bit more if the companies making the components didn’t feel the need to, for example, install special nets to catch their slav… er.. I mean employees who were regularly throwing themselves from the roof…

        Perhaps, and this is just a radical idea, but perhaps they could also make these things in some of the countries where they sell them so there’s more jobs to go around as well. I’d pay more for that and it’d be great PR.

  • Hmm, that’s coincidental but pleasantly surprising, a good percentage of my tech is LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic and Microsoft made and they all score fairly highly.

    That said, I am making this comment from an ASUS laptop and now I suspect the touchpad is so crap because it’s made from the skin of an orphan slave…

  • Reminds me of that joke

    The iPhone costs $298 to make.
    But you forgot about the labour costs
    Oh right, it cost $299 to make.

  • I am not all that surprised by Sony or Nintendo, but I am highly sceptical of MS getting a B given their history. Having policies and actually following them are two very different things.

  • I would love to see nintendo’s rating, but kotaku mobile cropped the results of the right side of my screen.

  • Great article Mark. I was one of the co-authors on the report and just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to engage with the research.
    Dogman in putting the report together we focused on the physical production processes of the respective companies looking at their final stage factories, components production and raw materials. In that respect the digital production would not have had an impact. We also took into account where companies were producing their products. If they were producing in high risk regions, than in order to be well graded companies needed to show more robust practices. If they were producing in low risk regions like the United States, than the expectations on their systems was relaxed accordingly.
    The other interesting thing to point out is that, though the numbers are rubbery, it looks like it wouldn’t cost that much more to ensure workers were being protected and paid well. In the Smartphone sector, ensuring workers were being paid a living wage may have only added between $2 and $9 to the overall cost (less than 1.5%). I couldn’t find any research or modelling for consoles in putting the report together, but that would be fascinating to look at.

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