Apple has released its 2011 report on supplier responsibility, essentially an audit of its overseas component suppliers and manufacturing facilities from a social responsibility angle. The report came to light after 36 environmental groups in China launched a 26-page complaint against the iPhone maker. Accusations have ranged from worker abuse to inhumane working conditions.
"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," the report reads. "Suppliers commit to the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct as a condition of doing business with us. Drawing on internationally recognized standards, our code outlines expectations covering labor and human rights, health and safety, the environment, ethics and management commitment."
Apple Discovers False IDs
Apple noted that Chinese factories have increasingly turned to labor agencies
and vocational schools to meet workforce demands. Apple said it discovered that some of these recruitment sources may provide false IDs that misrepresent young people's ages, posing challenges for factory management.
"To address this difficult scenario, we intensified our search for underage labor
in 2010, interviewing more workers and further scrutinizing recruiting practices,
employment records, and worker IDs, especially where third-party labor
agencies and schools were involved," Apple revealed. "Our audits of 127 facilities revealed 10 Chinese factories that had hired workers under the age of 16 years, the minimum age for employment in China."
Across nine of those facilities, Apple said 49 workers were hired before reaching the legal age. Working with experts in the field, Apple said it conducted a complete analysis of the hiring systems at each factory. The results: All the facilities had unsophisticated systems for age verification and ID checks.
"Apple has shown a tremendous amount of transparency with this effort as well as expressing concern over some of these conditions," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. "Apple has clearly identified what problems can exist, and it seems like they are doing quite a bit to make sure that these things don't continue to happen. It's good to see a company taking this type of stance, particularly when we are dependent on a global economy."
Apple's Helping Hand
Apple has required the facilities to institute policies and procedures to prevent employment of underage workers -- and to enforce them with third-party recruiters. To ensure implementation, Apple is requiring managers to attend training and follow up with one-on-one consulting. The company reports that all facilities have cooperated fully.
"Of the 10 facilities with underage labor violations, we found one that had hired a much larger number of underage workers -- a total of 42. In addition, we determined that management had chosen to overlook the issue and was not committed to addressing the problem," Apple's report said.
"Based on the poor likelihood of improvement, we terminated business with the facility. During our investigation, we also discovered that the vocational school involved in hiring the underage workers had falsified student IDs and threatened retaliation against students who revealed their ages during our audits. We reported the school to appropriate authorities in the Chinese government."
Apple said it has been aggressive in helping underage workers return to their families and get back to school. Apple said the company also ensures that these students have the support they need to succeed in school. For all active and historical underage workers, Apple provides individual assistance, including contacting the family, identifying educational options, enrolling the young person in school, and following up on their progress.