Apple Held Secret Pollution Talks With Chinese Environmentalists

Apple Held Secret Pollution Talks With Chinese Environmentalists

Photo by robertg6n1 - http://flic.kr/p/2764ug

Apple and several Chinese environmentalists met Tuesday to clear the air on disputes over pollution they claim comes from factories supplying the tech giant with much sought-after iPhones and iPads. Following the Beijing meeting, one environmentalist questioned Apple’s sincerity.

Reports suggest the meeting involved nine Chinese environmentalists representing five organizations and five Apple employees. Although pleased that Apple met with the activists, Li Li, director of EnviroFriends, said Apple continues to view the pollution as a problem of its suppliers, not the iPhone maker itself.

Along with reported pollution issues, the environmental groups have run into problems getting Apple to identify which polluting suppliers are used by the company. Apple told the activists 15 of 27 suppliers accused of polluting were part of its supply chain, however refused to name them. Of the 15, Apple reportedly has spoken to 11 suppliers and “asked them to reform,” according to Penn Olson, an Asian news site. Apple was “in the process of initiating communications” with the other four suppliers.

For its part, Apple issued a basic statement to the Wall Street Journal (subscription-based link) that the company is “committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply chain. We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.”

Earlier this year, Apple met with China-based environmental group The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. The group had charged Apple and other tech firms used manufacturers that polluted local areas, even claiming some area cancers were caused by the environmental abuse.

Most recently, the supplier of 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for the MacBook announced it was spending millions to clean up a pollution problem.

  • Picard68

    I think Apple should just pull out of China, put a million Chinese back in the fields to grow rice and make a dollar a week, and move their operations to a country that really wants the business. Why does me being a manufacturer make me responsible for every other suppliers non conformance to the pollution problem. Why aren’t the protesters protesting the suppliers directly?

  • Bob Forsberg

    Apple is one of many customers of these many suppliers. How they run their businesses in their own country is none of Apple’s business, nor should it be.

  • RyanTV

    This is just not an Apple issue. This is an issue with Chinese environmental law. These activist organizations pick targets to go after but the real issue lies within the Chinese government. Good luck going after them.

  • djrobsd

    Typical cult of mac responses from Apple fanboys.  This IS an Apple issue.  Without Apple these environmental polluters would NOT be in business.  Apple can and should choose to require these companies to comply with international environmental regulations.  Apple could pull out and go to a supplier that is in compliance… It would be painful and take time, but Apple should be taking steps now to make that happen if these companies are going to continue to destroy the earth.  

    As consumers, we can vote with our wallets.  Unfortunately, these same suppliers supply all of Apple’s competitors, so the only way to vote would be to stop using the technology… But we can protest, write letters to the CEO’s of these companies, etc to take a stand against this.

About the author

Ed SutherlandEd Sutherland is a veteran technology journalist who first heard of Apple when they grew on trees, Yahoo was run out of a Stanford dorm and Google was an unknown upstart. Since then, Sutherland has covered the whole technology landscape, concentrating on tracking the trends and figuring out the finances of large (and small) technology companies.

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