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Apple expands worker education, supply chain audits

updated 02:36 pm EDT, Fri March 28, 2014

2013 Supplier Responsibility summary builds on previous successes

Apple has updated its Supplier Responsibility report, highlighting both continuing improvement and pointing out new initiatives designed to further improve conditions and social issues along its supply chain. Apple reports it achieved 95 percent compliance among all suppliers in limiting workers to a maximum 60-hour work week in 2013, and the company has doubled the number of factories offering free worker education and development programs. The company is also now training additional environment, health and safety (EHS) personnel for its workplaces.

The Apple Supplier EHS Academy is an 18-month training program designed to address a shortage of qualified EHS personnel in China. Initially some 240 students will be trained to monitor factories representing a quarter of a million workers. Apple is also investigating student internships at suppliers, ensuring that the vocational schools and over 12,000 interns currently at work are not taking advantage of the students or unduly exploiting them.

As of January, the company confirmed that all active tantalum smelters in its supply chain are verified as using conflict-free materials by third-party audits. The report contains a first-ever list of all the tantulum, gold, tin and tungsten smelters Apple uses, along with their verification status. Also being published for the first time is the company's full list of Supplier Responsibility Standards, which runs 100 pages long.

Apple is currently tracking more than one million workers every week, and conducted 33 audits across 2013, including 16 factories not previously audited. Overall audits throughout the supply chain numbered 451, a 51 percent increase from 2012, covering 1.5 million workers. Apple has also cracked down on overpayments to labor brokers among suppliers, and returned a total of $3.9 million in overpayments to workers. Since 2008, the total returned to workers who were unfairly overcharged by brokers has totalled nearly $17 million.

Finally, the report mentions a new area of environmental focus. Apple has launched a pilot Clean Water Program at 13 of its suppliers, with a goal of reusing a "significant amount" of treated wastewater, and recycle water within the production process. Collectively, the suppliers use more than 41 million cubic meters of water per year.

by MacNN Staff



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