Samsung Group

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. Samsung's flagship unit is Samsung Electronics, which is one of the world's top makers of electronics. 

Samsung ethical issues

Our research highlights several ethical issues with Samsung, including climate change, habitats & resources, pollution and toxics, arms & military supply, human rights, workers' rights, irresponsible marketing, animal rights, anti-social finance, controversial technologies and political activities. 

Below we outline of some of these issues. To see the full detailed stories, and Samsung overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.


An investigation by the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported by Al Jazeera in August 2016 found that Samsung deliberately kept secret the harmful chemicals its South Korean workers were exposed to, fearing its competitors would learn trade secrets. 76 workers had died. 

Most of the dead were in their 20s or 30s. One former worker—a breast cancer survivor—reported that Samsung brought in “uninformed kids” and treated them like they were “disposable cups.” Samsung repeatedly refused to reveal the carcinogenic chemicals workers were exposed to in its factories, the exposure levels, or how it managed the chemicals.

There have been 200 cases of serious illnesses at Samsung’s LCD and semiconductor factories, including leukemia, lupus, lymphoma, and multiple sclerosis. Hwang Sang-Gi, father of Hwang Yu-mi, a former Samsung factory worker who died of leukaemia aged  22, told the AP that the company once offered him 1 billion won ($914,000) in exchange for his silence. 


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.


The Samsung Group spent $1,410,000 on lobbying in the USA in 2014 as well as making $500 in contributions to candidates or party committees. Twenty out of 31 Samsung Group lobbyists in 2014 were said to have previously held government jobs

Image: Samsung
  • Ethical Consumer Best Buy: No
  • Boycotts: No

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1320 - 10 Seocho 2-Dong,
South Korea

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