updated 01:25 pm EST, Fri January 13, 2012
Claims less underage labor, over 100 new audits
Apple has released its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (PDF), providing a brief glimpse into how it treated its supply chain during 2011. The company claims to maintain high standards for suppliers, and in 2011 it is said to have conducted 229 audits, up 80 percent over 2010. In the process it discovered six active and 13 historical instances of underage workers, spread across five factories. Apple blames weak controls on checking age or documentation at the facilities.
It in each circumstance Apple says it required suppliers to aid the workers' return to school. To deter future violations, Apple notes that it cooperated with suppliers to improve recruitment practices and age checks. It insists that it has a "zero-tolerance policy" for underage labor, and in fact touts that violations were "down significantly" over 2010, with none at all in factories handling final product assembly. In 2010 Apple recorded 49 underage workers at nine overseas plants, 42 of them at a single facility with which Apple severed business ties.
Of the recent audits, over 100 are said to have been first-time checks. "We continue to expand our program to reach deeper into our supply base, and this year we added more detailed and specialized audits that focus on safety and the environment," the company states. At 14 facilities third-party environmental engineering experts were brought in to do detailed reviews. The company also brags that it offers free education at supplier factories; more than 60,000 workers have reportedly enrolled.
Apple has faced stern criticism for its supply chain. Some suppliers have been accused of pollution, or lax safety standards resulting in injuries or death. Companies like Foxconn have been accused of maintaining sweatshop-like conditions in which people work excruciating hours for little pay, something potentially responsible for a string of suicides.