Apple hits new milestones in annual supplier responsibility report

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A worker inspecting a MacBook Pro display.
A worker inspecting a MacBook Pro display.
Photo: Apple

Apple performed more accountability audits on its workforce last year that it ever has before, the company has revealed in its 10th annual Supplier Responsibility progress report that highlights the company’s efforts to improve working conditions for all people in its supply chain.

By zeroing in on the amount of hours employees are working, the iPhone-maker’s work-hour compliance rating hit an all-new high, and Apple was able to recoup $4.7 million in excessive recruitment fees for foreign contract workers.

“In 2015, work-hour compliance among our suppliers reached 97 percent, a number that is virtually unheard of in our industry,” wrote Apple COO Jeff Williams. “Since 2008, more than 9.2 million workers have been trained on their rights, over 1.4 million people have participated in Apple educational programs, and more than $25.6 million in excessive recruitment fees have been repaid to foreign contract workers by suppliers as a result of our efforts.”

Underage workers are on the decline in the supply chain. In 2015, Apple auditors only found 1 facility using underage labor, down from 6 in 2014 even though 20 percent of facilities are new to the auditing process this year. The one factory was found employing 3 underage workers, all age 15 years old when the minimum is 16 years old.

Apple also focused on completely eliminating conflict materials from the supply chain in 2015. To reach its goal of using 100 percent smelters and refiners that aren’t financing in armed conflict, Apple had to kick out 35 suppliers. Jeff Williams told Buzzfeed the company was “unable to convince [them] to do things in the way we think are appropriate.”

The company went so far as to publicizing smelters in order to shame the ones it couldn’t convince otherwise to join the program. Williams cautioned that the company could declare itself “conflict-free” by today’s standards, but there are still a lot of holes they want to plug. They’re also pushing suppliers hard to be more environmentally conscious.

“Suppliers have diverted more than 73,000 metric tons of waste from landfills,” said Williams. “Our Clean Water Program has saved more than 3.8 billion gallons of freshwater. And in the first year of our energy efficiency program, suppliers have prevented more than 13,800 metric tons of carbon emissions.”

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