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Latest concerns re Apple supply chain - Jan-Feb 2012

On 13 January, Apple revealed its supplier list [PDF] for the first time, and published its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report [PDF], where it also announced it had joined the Fair Labor Association.  These actions followed over a year of on-going criticisms, particularly by Chinese NGOs, of working conditions and environmental impacts of its suppliers' factories.  (For more information on the criticism and Apple's responses see: "NGO Report, 'The Other Side of Apple', with company comment, news coverage [China]",  "Apple's Chinese workers treated 'inhumanely, like machines'", "Wintek workers' letters to Apple", "Apple attacked over pollution in China"  "Allegations of Pollution in Apple's Supply Chain")

The following is a selection of news reports on Apple's recent announcement:

"Apple unveils supplier names with 2012 responsibility report", Philip Michaels, Macworld, 13 Jan 2012 
"...The report discloses a total of six active and 13 historical instances of underage labor at five facilities; Apple required those suppliers to improve labor recruitment practices and support underage workers going back to school...This year, Apple also increased audits in Malaysia and Singapore, looking at 28 suppliers which work with third-party labor agencies to hire contract workers from other countries. In some instances, these labor agencies can charge excessive fees that force workers into debt, which Apple considers involuntary labor. The company’s supplier code limits recruitment fees to the equivalent of one month’s net wages and makes its suppliers pay back overpaid fees to workers. This year, suppliers reimbursed $3.3 million in excess contract worker fees, according to Apple’s report. Apple did stop doing business with one supplier for what it called repeat offenses of involuntary labor...The working conditions section of the Supplier Responsibility Report noted two incidents this year where combustible dust was to blame for explosions at two facilities. The first explosion at a Foxconn factory [part of Hon Hai] in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18; a second explosion at a Pegatron subsidiary’s factory in Shanghai injured 59.  As a result, Apple says it established new requirements for handling combustible dust throughout its supply chain...Apple says it conducted specialized audits at 14 suppliers in China, looking at wastewater treatment facilities, air emissions handling, solid waste disposal, and noise abatement systems. The audits, conducted by third-party environmental engineering experts, found a number of violations, which Apple is working to correct with its suppliers...Apple’s Supplier Responsibility report also looks at the company’s efforts to use conflict-free raw materials, such as tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold. Apple says it is working with the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative to train and certify smelters of these metals. Going forward, Apple plans to require suppliers to source from conflict-free certified smelters..."

"Apple joins FLA", Fair Labor Association, Global Action for Fair Labor blog, 13 Jan 2012
“We found that Apple takes supplier responsibility seriously and we look forward to their participation in the Fair Labor Association,” said Auret van Heerden, FLA’s President and CEO. “We welcome Apple’s commitment to greater transparency and independent oversight, and we hope its participation will set a new standard for the electronics industry.”

"Apple Navigates China Maze" Jessica Vassellero and Owen Fletcher, Wall Street Journal, 12 Jan 2012
"Apple...on Friday disclosed a list of its major suppliers for the first time, moving to combat an array of criticism about working conditions in its supply chain and the company's transparency about them. The list of 156 companies came along with a major report—one of the company's largest ever—divulging the results of its recent factory inspections. The report said Apple found continued problems in areas such as working hours and inadequate benefits. For example, the report said Apple's suppliers were in compliance with the company's code of a maximum of a 60-hour work week only 38% of the time. The company said factories fared better in other areas like fair treatment. Apple...has been sharing more of its findings about working conditions in its factories over time, but this year's update represents one of its most detailed ever..." [also refers to Sony, Intel, Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Company, Foxconn (part of Hon Hai)] 

"Apple Lists Suppliers for First Time Amid Criticism of Working Conditions", Adam Satariano, Bloomberg, 14 Jan 2012
"...The company cited discrimination violations, including 18 facilities that screened job candidates or current workers for hepatitis B and 24 facilities that conducted pregnancy tests. 'We classified these practices as discrimination -- even if permissible under local laws,' Apple said. 'At our direction, the suppliers have stopped discriminatory screenings for medical conditions or pregnancy.'"

"Apple Lists Its Suppliers for 1st Time", Nick Wingfield & Charles Duhigg, New York Times, 13 Jan 2012 
"Apple released a list of its major suppliers for the first time on Friday, bringing the company up to par with other big American corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Nike, which have released similar lists.  The list accompanied a report detailing troubling practices inside many of the technology giant’s suppliers. Apple said audits revealed that 93 supplier facilities had records indicating that over half of workers exceeded a 60-hour weekly working limit. Apple said 108 facilities did not pay proper overtime as required by law...And though Apple said it mandated changes at those suppliers, and some showed improvements, in aggregate, many types of lapses remained at general levels that have persisted for years...Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum...was disappointed Apple did not reveal the location of the suppliers on its list, complicating outside efforts to monitor the progress at the factories. Some plants on the list are relatively unknown, with Web sites that do not list where facilities are situated. 'It’s a bit of a half-step really to say, "Here are the names of the factories, go look through a haystack,"’ Ms. Gearhart said. “But it’s a start.”... In an e-mail to Apple employees, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive, said Apple had used its influence to improve living conditions for the people who make its products,including employee housing..."

"Apple Joins Fair Labor Association", Casey Newton, San Francisco Chronicle (USA), 14 Jan 2012
"...[It is the] first technology company to join the labor association...In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is 'raising the bar' on factory conditions.  'I have spent a lot of time in factories over this lifetime and we are clearly leading in this area,' he told the paper.  Still, the company's audits did find labor violations...The report found that almost half the audited companies didn't pay overtime properly and that 56 facilities had no procedures to prevent discrimination against pregnant women..."

"Apple to allow monitoring of suppliers", Shane Richmond, Telegraph (UK), 14 Jan 2012 
"...At least 12 Foxconn [part of Hon Hai] workers have committed suicide and around 150 workers at a Foxconn factory in Wuhan spent two days on the roof, threatening mass suicide, in a protest over plans to move them to a new production line. Those workers were involved in producing Microsoft's Xbox but Foxconn also makes products for Amazon, Microsoft and HP...Auret van Heerden, the president of the Fair Labour Association, said that standards set by suppliers could often do more than governments can. He said: 'If you’re a 16-year-old girl in a developing country, your best chance of enjoying proper rights is if you get to work at a multinational. The power of their contract is more powerful than the power of law.'” 

"Apple Speaks Openly, Discloses Environmental And Rights Issues Among Its Suppliers", Kit Eaton, FastCompany (USA), 13 Jan 2012 
"...[Apple stated,] 'We continue to expand our program to reach deeper into our supply base, and this year we also added more detailed and specialized audits to address safety and environmental concerns. We know that finding and correcting problems is not enough. Apple-designed training programs educate workers about local laws, their fundamental rights as workers, occupational health and safety, and Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct. Today there are more than one million people who know their rights because they went to work for an Apple supplier.'..."

[FR] "Le courrier de Tim Cook sur les fournisseurs d'Apple", Florian Innocente, MacGeneration, 13 janvier 2012
"Apple a publié ce soir son rapport annuel sur les conditions de travail au sein de ses fournisseurs. On aura l'occasion d'y revenir plus en détail, mais il est à relever, chose inédite, que la société y dresse la liste nominative des entreprises avec lesquelles elle travaille...En parallèle à cette publication, Tim Cook a adressé...un mail au sein d'Apple, en voici le texte complet traduit ainsi que la version originale que nous avons obtenue : 'Nous venons de publier notre sixième mise à jour annuelle sur les conditions de travail dans la chaîne d'approvisionnement d'Apple, et je tiens personnellement à partager quelques-uns des résultats avec vous. Nous insistons pour que nos partenaires suivent strictement le code de conduite d'Apple, et pour s'assurer qu'il en est ainsi, l'équipe en charge du suivi de nos fournisseurs a conduit l'année dernière plus de 200 audits au sein des installations de l'ensemble de notre chaîne d'approvisionnement. Ces audits ont pour objectif de s'assurer que les conditions de travail sont sûres et justes, et si un fabricant ne répond pas à nos critères, nous cessons de travailler avec lui...'"

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13 January 2012

[PDF] Apple Supplier Responsibility, 2012 Progress Report

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Apple attacked over pollution in China

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Apple's Chinese workers treated 'inhumanely, like machines'

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