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Apple dropping unaudited suppliers in conflict-free minerals push

updated 09:57 pm EDT, Thu May 29, 2014

Company does own investigation of mineral sourcing, goes beyond requirements

Apple is taking a decidedly aggressive role in pursuit of its goal to use only conflict-free minerals in the production of its products, according to a new document the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The iPhone maker is now doing its own investigations to ensure that sources for minerals are also conflict-free alongside smelters, and removing unaudited smelters from its supply chain.

The SEC disclosure follows on from a Supplier Responsibility report issued in February, in which the company first mentioned it was going to keep a closer watch on where suppliers pull minerals from, in a bid to avoid "conflict" minerals -- minerals from regions where their sale may be used to fund ongoing wars. In particular, the Apple is focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

"The ethical sourcing of minerals is an important part of our mission to ensure safe and fair working conditions," Apple said in the report. "In January 2014, we confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third-party auditors, and we're pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources." The company reported at the time that 59 smelters were compliant, with another 23 part of the Conflict-Free Smelter Program. In the report, another 104 smelters used by Apple could not be verified as compliant.

The SEC document, which covers the same calendar 2013 period as the last Supplier Responsibility report, adds more detail to the vision mentioned in the February support. In it, Apple says it will stop using any unaudited smelters and refiners that aren't certified to be conflict-free by third-party verification organizations. Of the 205 suppliers the company says it uses, 21 do use some material from the DRC, but 17 of those firms have been verified as being in compliance with the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP).

Apple says it will continue to drive suppliers to ensure that their smelters and refiners obtain a "conflict free" designation from an independent third-party auditor of Subject Minerals, continue to pressure smelters and refiners directly to become verified, and "continue to drive its suppliers to obtain current, accurate, and complete information about their smelters and refiners of Subject
Minerals." Those that do not comply will lose Apple's business.

The company says it will "conduct in-person visits, third-party reviews and collaborative efforts with industry partners to ensure that the number of unaudited producers decreases to zero." Apple's pro-active stance on this and other environmental transparency issues has won the company high praise from former nemesis Greenpeace, which has reversed its position as Apple has demonstrated a continuing commitment to environmental responsibility.

by MacNN Staff





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