Apple Held Secret Pollution Talks With Chinese Environmentalists

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