Apple Focuses On Worker Conditions & Environment In New Supplier Report

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Apple has released its eighth annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report.

The forty-page document focuses on Apple’s progress in providing the 1 million+ people working in its supply chain with “safe and ethical working conditions,” as well as the company’s efforts to ethically source minerals.

Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Progress Report last year focused most heavily on the issue of underage labor — with 11 facilities found to have employed underage workers, with 106 active cases, and 70 historical ones. This year Apple reports a significant drop — with 8 facilities employing underage laborers, with 11 active cases and 12 historical ones.

The report notes that 4 supplier facilities discriminated against women by carrying out mandatory pregnancy tests, while 2 conducted medical tests looking for diseases such as Hepatitis B.

“We classified these practices as discrimination even if permissible under local laws,” the report states. “We require the facilities to stop [such] tests for all workers and regularly check to ensure these tests are eliminated. In addition, the facilities conducted training for appropriate employees.”

The report details Apple’s focus on worker education, noting that 18 factories now provide free education and development programs — twice as many as in 2012. In 2013, over 270,000 workers enrolled on Apple’s 18-month Apple Supplier EHS Academy course.

Apple additionally claims that its suppliers achieved an average of 95 percent compliance with the maximum 60-hour workweek — and that it personally tracked more than 1 million workers in this program. 97% of workers had at least one in seven days off.

Participation in Workers' Rights training

Participation in Workers’ Rights training

Apple also noted its more stringent focus on the environment, with 62 detailed studies of environmental risks discovered during 520 site profile surveys. However, in 2013 the number of environmental core violations representing  “serious breaches of compliance” rose from 4 the previous year to 17.

While the increase is surprising, the report notes that Apple conducted 51% more audits than in the previous year — representing 451 facilities in total, of which 40% were new to the supply chain. Apple also strengthened guidelines regarding what comprises a core violation — so that things deemed less serious in the past, such as discharging process wastewater without treatment into sewers or the surrounding environment, now count more seriously.

Apple audits since 2007

Apple audits since 2007

Apple additionally claims that it is attempting to limit the use of conflict minerals such as tin, tungsten and gold.

This is only a summary of the report’s findings. Additional detail can be found at the link below. For the most part, however, it’s good to see Tim Cook continuing to live up to his mantra for Apple as a “force for good.”

Let’s hope things can further improve this year.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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