Samsung: Company Profile

The Samsung Group is South Korea's biggest business conglomerate, a family-controlled business empire known as a “chaebol”.

It has numerous subsidiaries and affiliated companies, operating in sectors that include oil and gas, insurance, financial services, armaments and biopharmacy..

So just how ethical is the electronics manufacturer? 

Last updated: June 2014

Annual Revenue£130.43 billion a year


Other Brands-


Company Score2.5 out of 20




Ethical Consumer Best Buy?No


Ethical issues by category

In August 2013 Brazil filed a lawsuit against Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung, alleging poor working conditions at a factory in the Amazon. The Brazilian government was said to be demanding 250 million Reals in "collective moral damages". The company was said to already be facing approximately 1,200 legal complaints by workers at Manaus plant, one of the largest of Samsung's 25 factories worldwide, which employed 6,000 workers.

The Brazilian Ministry of Labor said that employees at the factory worked up to 15 hours a day, including 10 hours on their feet, sometimes for 27 days straight. It claimed that the company "subjects its employees to the risk of illness from repetitive activity and the intense pace of work on the assembly line". 

Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPS) has been campaigning against Samsung for seven years, since the death of the first victim of a cancer cluster at one of the company's semi-conductor plant in South Korea. 23-year old Hwang Yu-mi was the first of more than 50 former Samsung employees to have died from acute leukaemia and other blood diseases after being exposed to chemicals at work.  

Following an international campaign and an article exposing the deaths on Bloomberg Businessweek the company finally publicly apologised for the deaths in May 2014.  The company CEO said Samsung would stop intervening in compensation lawsuits.  SHARPS claims the company “used an army of high-paid lawyers to delay and derail the legal proceedings until the victims and their families were exhausted emotionally and financially".  However, no commitment was made to withdraw a number of civilian and criminal charges against the families of the victims and SHARPs activists for holding demonstrations against the company.  


According to NEI magazine ( Samsung was part of a consortium that was constructing a new nuclear power plant in the UAE in 2012. The article stated that "KEPCO's scope of supply includes engineering, procurement, construction, nuclear fuel and operations and maintenance support with the assistance of other Korean members of the KEPCO team, including Samsung...".

On Ethical Consumer's rating for environmental reporting the group scores a worst mark for its overall reporting however the electronics subsidiary scores a best mark.

There are no negative stories against the company in this category.

The website of the International Chamber of Commerce (, viewed by ECRA on in September 2013, listed Samsung as a member. According to the ICC, "Through membership of ICC, companies shape rules and policies that stimulate international trade and investment."  

ECRA noted that the activity of lobby groups such as the ICC often meant that business interests were protected at the expense of the environment and human rights.  For example, the ICC were included in the Basel Action Network's "Hall of Shame" for lobbying against the Basel Convention, within which was a ban on transporting hazardous waste from the wealthiest to less wealthy countries, due to those countries demonstrably not having the infrastructure to minimise risk from the waste.

In Depth Information

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