updated 09:50 am EST, Tue February 21, 2012
Only two suppliers to be checked so far
Apple is telling activists in the US and China that it will soon permit independent environmental reviews of at least two Chinese suppliers, according to USA Today. Prominent Chinese activist Ma Jun, the founder of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, tells the paper that Apple agreed to the reviews in late January. The move is said to have been made in response to two reports by the IPE and other environmental groups, showing toxic chemical use and hazardous waste leaks at companies thought to be Apple suppliers. Apple rarely acknowledges which companies are a part of its supply chain.
Ma explains that the reviews could begin as soon as March, and will start with two suppliers, but may expand to more. An independent review is needed to "make sure that (it) is done in a transparent way," he adds, noting that the IPE has had six meetings and calls with Apple since mid-Septemer. Apple is said to want to make the results of the reviews public, including the names of the suppliers -- but only once they've been given a chance to fix any problems. It also intends to use a pollution violation database on the IPE website to monitor current suppliers and evaluate new ones.
In 2011 reports the IPE named about two dozen companies thought to be Apple suppliers. Apple has only acknowledged seven, including Foxconn, Meiko Electronics, Unimicron, Ibiden Electronics, Wintek, Nan Ya Printed Circuit Board and Compeq Manufacturing.
Backing up some of Ma's statements is Linda Greer, director of the health program for the US group National Resources Defense Council. She comments that Apple has agreed to allow environmental groups to investigate at least two of the 14 suppliers Apple did its own audits on last year.
The environmental probes are technically separate from any scrutiny of labor practices, but may be related in spirit. Apple has come under increasing media scrutiny for its supplier practices, and may feel a need to present a cleaner image to keep up its popularity.