Dee Lee is the founder and director of Inno Community Development Organisation, a nongovernmental community development organization in China. Established in 2007, the organization focuses on public health, poverty alleviation, and emerging issues such as labor law. HP collaborated with Inno in 2010 on an initiative to educate employers about the risks of discriminatory practices related to the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and to influence employee attitudes and enhance understanding in that area.

Why was training on anti-discrimination towards hepatitis B carriers necessary?

Discrimination against hepatitis B carriers is severe in the workplace in China, especially in factories. This is based in part on incorrect information—for example, that you can get the virus through the air and that you can eliminate the virus entirely through medication. It's necessary to work with factories as well as their customers to provide accurate knowledge.

What did the program involve?

The first part of the initiative involves innovative educational programs in the factories. We take a creative approach, not the traditional style with instructors standing in front of a classroom. For example, we created an anti-discrimination comic book that tells workers the right information about the disease and how it's transmitted. Many workers love to read stories in that format, so it's an effective way to reach them.

We also use educational games in the factory, such as a carnival or competition setting. In one game, workers tried to throw a ring over one of nine stakes on the floor that stated correct and incorrect ways to transmit the virus.

We deliver easily understandable information about HBV to management via different means of communication, such as peer education, classroom training, and simulation exercises.

The other part of the program involved launching a confidential, 24-hour hotline for employees to share concerns and gain accurate information. Every month, the hotline has received more than 200 calls regarding HBV and emotional issues related to the virus.

What was HP's role in the overall initiative?

HP acted as an advocate for the program, convening factory owners and financing the overall project. We're working together with them to continue the program in 2011 and help extend it to the Yangtze River Delta region.

How did workers and management respond?

Management has been very accepting of the approach, and not at all confrontational. They found the training very instructive. Now, management and workers have the same knowledge, which makes it easier for them to address these issues productively.

What were the results? What changes in attitudes towards hepatitis B carriers have you seen among workers and management since the training?

At seven factories where HP does business, we've reached nearly 20,000 people, including workers as well as management.

More broadly, we've worked with other factories through the program, including ones that work for companies other than HP. These factories no longer ban hepatitis B carriers from employment. Employee knowledge has increased dramatically—with the average worker answering 85% of questions correctly about hepatitis B, compared to 26% beforehand.

What is it like to work with HP?

HP has worked really hard on its supply chain social and environmental responsibility program. As a result, its factories are unusually well-managed and committed to transparency, providing a solid foundation to support workers' welfare. This makes it a bit more challenging to find opportunities for improvement. One must peel the apple to go inside and get closer to the core. That's a great experience for us.