In September 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on The Intercept, titled, 'Google Hedges on Promise to End Controversial Involvement in Military Drone Contract'.

It stated that following extensive protests, Google was going to stop working on a Pentagon project called "Maven" that uses machine learning to interpret drone surveillance video. However, it would continue to do other IT work for the US defense department. Google was thus marked down under Arms and Military Supply.


Google Hedges on Promise to End Controversial Involvement in Military Drone Contract (1 March 2019)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Google Inc's website for the company's supply chain management policy. A 2019 Responsible Supply Chain report was found, which also linked to the Google’s Supplier Code of Conduct and other information.

Supply chain policy (rudimentary)
Google's supply chain policy included adequate clauses on child labour, forced labour, freedom of association and non-discrimination. However the clause on working hours was not considered adequate as it was qualified by "except in emergency or unusual situations." It did not contain a clause guaranteeing workers' a living wage. Overall Google was considered to have a rudimentary supply chain policy.

Stakeholder engagement (poor)
No references could be found to the effect that Google was working with multistakeholder organisations or trade unions or NGOs to help verify its labour standards within its supply chain, or had any complaints procedure that workers would be aware of and able to use.

Auditing and reporting (rudimentary)
Google stated that "We regularly perform independent third-party audits at our suppliers’ facilities to determine whether the supplier is meeting our standards, to hear directly from workers, and to identify and help resolve issues....We performed 236 on-site assessments from 2013 to 2018...When we find that a supplier is not conforming to our expectations, we expect the supplier to provide a corrective action plan (CAP) that outlines the root cause of the finding, how and when that company will resolve the issue, and what steps will be taken to prevent recurrence." Google provided some details of how much non-compliance had been found and the most common reasons for non-conformance. However there wasn't full disclosure of results, a schedule or commitment to audit the whole supply chain. Overall Google was considered to have a rudimentary approach to auditing and reporting.

Difficult issues (poor)
Google did not appear to be addressing any difficult issues such as illegal freedom of association found within supply chains. Overall Google was considered to have a poor approach to difficult issues.

Overall Google received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for supply chain management.


Google sustainability website (13 May 2020)

An article on dated December 2019 reported that Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla had been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Washington DC by human rights firm International Rights Advocates on behalf of 14 parents and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

It stated “The lawsuit, which is the result of field research conducted by anti-slavery economist Siddharth Kara, accuses the companies of aiding and abetting in the death and serious injury of children who they claim were working in cobalt mines in their supply chain.

The families and injured children are seeking damages for forced labour and further compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

As a result, the company of lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's Human Rights category.


Apple and Google named in US lawsuit over Congolese child cobalt mining deaths (16 December 2019)

In October 2019 the Responsible Sourcing Network released a report titled ‘Mining the Disclosures 2019: An Investor Guide to Conflict Minerals and Cobalt Reporting’.

2019 was the first year that Mining the Disclosures introduced an analysis of publicly available information on cobalt due diligence, aimed at encouraging companies to take action and disclose additional information. The report ranks 27 companies on efforts to address child labor and other human rights abuses in their cobalt supply chains. Cobalt is not considered a “conflict mineral”, but there is evidence that the mining of cobalt is contributing to harm, including risks with environmental degradation, safety, human rights, and community impacts.
“While exploring the quality of the due diligence systems in place, the cobalt rating assesses the availability of information and actions taken by companies. The 21 indicators reflect the OECD 5-Step framework and are weighted to highlight the focus on information disclosure, since there is no legislation requiring reporting for cobalt mining.”
“The report analyses a sample group of 27 companies chosen from the three largest industries consuming cobalt. These industries: technology, automotive, and jet engine manufacturing represent the vast majority of cobalt uses for batteries and metal alloys. For the technology sector, due to the broad spectrum of companies using cobalt, a sample of 10 companies was selected based on market cap and recognition by investors and consumers throughout the world.”
The report recommended that companies should follow the lead of others such as Dell Technologies and Microsoft, and adopt a policy covering cobalt sourcing. They should also join multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the RMI cobalt working group, the Cobalt Institute(CI). It also mentioned Better Mining (Better Sourcing Program and Better Cobalt), the Cobalt Industry Responsible Assessment Framework (CIRAF), and the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, an initiative of the CCCMC.
Companies were considered not to be providing adequate information if they scored below 50 points. RSN states that “The average score for cobalt — 26.4 — demonstrates a corporate risk that is deplorable.”
Alphabet scored 33.4 and therefore lost half a mark under Habitats & Resources, and Human Rights.


Mining the Disclosures 2019 (15 October 2019)

In September 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed the an article on the New York Times website entitled, 'Google Is Fined $170 Million for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube'.

The article stated:

"Google agreed on Wednesday to pay a record $170 million fine and make changes to protect children’s privacy on YouTube, as regulators said the video site had knowingly and illegally harvested personal information from children and used it to profit by targeting them with ads."

"Regulators said that YouTube, which is owned by Google, had illegally gathered children’s data — including identification codes used to track web browsing over time — without their parents’ consent."

The company lost half a mark under Human Rights.


Google Is Fined $170 Million for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube (9 September 2019)

In April 2017 The Guardian online reported that Google had been accused of possible employment violations which had emerged as result of a lawsuit to compel company, a federal contractor, to provide compensation data. In the article called "Google accused of 'extreme' gender pay discrimination by US labor department" it said the US Department of Labor (DoL) had said it had evidence of “systemic compensation disparities”.
Agency officials said "As part of an ongoing DoL investigation, the government has collected information that suggests the internet search giant is violating federal employment laws with its salaries for women."
Janet Herold, regional solicitor for the DoL, said: “The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters. The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”
Google strongly denied the accusations of inequities, claiming it did not have a gender pay gap.
The allegations emerged at a hearing in federal court as part of a lawsuit the DoL filed against Google in January 2017, seeking to compel the company to provide salary data and documents to the government.
The Guardian reported "Google is a federal contractor, which means it is required to allow the DoL to inspect and copy records and information about its its compliance with equal opportunity laws. Last year, the department’s office of federal contract compliance programs requested job and salary history for Google employees, along with names and contact information, as part of the compliance review. Google, however, repeatedly refused to hand over the data, which was a violation of its contractual obligations with the federal government, according to the DoL’s lawsuit. After the suit was originally filed, a company spokesperson claimed that Google had provided “hundreds of thousands of records” to the government and that the requests outlined in the complaint were “overbroad”, revealed confidential information, or violated employees’ privacy."
Lisa Barnett Sween, one of Google’s attorneys, testified in opening remarks that the DoL’s request constituted a “fishing expedition that has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review”. She said the request was an unconstitutional violation of the company’s fourth amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches.


Google accused of 'extreme' gender pay discrimination by US labor department (7 April 2017)

According to an article published in the Guardian on 14 January 2015, four Silicon Valley companies including Google had agreed to a new settlement that would resolve a class action lawsuit by tech workers who accused the firms of conspiring to avoid recruiting each other’s employees.
Plaintiffs accused Google and the other firms in the 2011 lawsuit of limiting job mobility and, as a result, keeping a lid on salaries.
The case had been closely watched because of the possibility of big damages being awarded and for the opportunity to peek into the world of some of America’s elite tech firms.
US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, last year rejected a $324.5m (£214m) settlement of the lawsuit as too low after one of the plaintiffs objected.
That worker was said to be in support of the new agreement, his attorney Daniel Girard said, which could be a joint payment of $415m, the New York Times reported citing a person close to the negotiations.
Representatives for Google declined to comment.
The case was based largely on emails in which firms detailed plans to avoid poaching each other’s prized engineers.


Silicon Valley giants ‘to settle claim’ of conspiring to limit pay (14 January 2015)