(First published in Norwegian 21 May 2008)
By Pia A. Gaarder
Det Norske Veritas is assisting Telenor in examining the conditions at all its five sub-suppliers in Bangladesh.
One of the first measures taken by Telenor and its 62% owned subsidiary, Grameenphone, was to break all connections with one of their largest and oldest suppliers, Mizan Hatim Engineering.
Mizan Hatim is consequently the only one of the five sub-suppliers of antenna towers in Bangladesh to have lost its contract with Grameenphone after the disclosure of the dangerous and illegal working conditions at the factories. Telenor’s director of communications, Pål Kvalheim, yesterday told Norwatch that the conditions at the company are no worse than at the others, but the company’s management has during the past month shown no willingness to improve conditions.
Even though the management of Mizan Hatim, according to Telenor, now opposes improvement measures, this same company and the same management have received the stamp of approval from Det Norske Veritas (DNV) because of its good management system.
Mizam Hatim is in fact not unknown to DNV. In November 2006 DNV issued an ISO 9001/2000 certificate to this company. DNV inspectors have consequently visited the company several times, both during the certification process and during the yearly follow-up, which is an integral part of the certification.
ISO 9001/2000 certification applies to a company’s management structure with regard to quality administration and is not a certification of either the company’s environmental standards, such as ISO 14001, or of the company’s working conditions and safety, such as ISO 18000. Nevertheless, the certificate provides a guarantee of quality to the company’s management system.
According to Tore Høifødt, DNV’s public relations manager, “The ISO 9000 standard defines how a management system should be constructed with regard to quality. It applies to the terms of responsibility being clearly defined; there must be clear lines of command, quality loops, continuous improvement measures, and so forth. The basic thought behind ISO 9000 applies to the quality aspect of how a company is managed and led. It is not a DNV standard but an international standard by means of which many choose to be certified, and which is supposed to ensure that there exists a quality control for the management system of a company. The idea is that this will also have positive consequences for the quality of the product.”
In his documentary on the conditions at Telenor’s sub-suppliers in Bangladesh, Tom Heinemann filmed inside Mizan Hatim’s precincts. It is clearly evident that it is impossible to enter the company without observing the lack of security measures around, for example, the galvanisation tanks.
“Is it possible that such grave conditions are not caught during an ISO 9001 check for certification of the management system of a factory, seeing that such conditions in themselves are a sign of an unsound management system?”, Norwatch asked.
“Now, I don’t know this company. But as a part of the certification we annually go through the factory and give orders with regard to any possible improvement points. It is possible that there exists a list with improvement points from our inspectors for such a company. This is pure speculation on my part and more of a hope. For this does not sound good,” Tore Høifødt, DNV’s public relations manager, said.
Høifødt was not familiar with the ISO 9001 approval of Mizan Hatim when Norwatch phoned him on May 20th, but he has since confirmed that Norwatch’s information is correct. From what Norwatch gathers, Telenor has in the meanwhile been informed by Veritas that DNV has worked with Mizan Hatim previously.