Apple’s China Suppliers to Get Independent Environmental Audits
The environmental examinations would be separate from a probe of working conditions at supplier factories, including Foxconn Technology, that began last week, USA Today reported.
The independent environmental reviews would examine toxic waste discharges into the water supply and soil, evaluating at least two of the 14 suppliers that Apple did environmental audits on last year, but could expand to additional suppliers.
Apple said last week that the Fair Labor Association (FLA) will conduct voluntary audits of Apple’s final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, at Apple’s request. A team of labor rights experts led by president of FLA began inspections at the facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City.
The reviews come as Apple struggles with negative press about its supply chain that is affecting its image. Apple was a Top 10 company in the 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Index, a ranking of the 50 leading companies with the best corporate citizenship reputations among the U.S. public, but did not even earn a spot in the Top 50 in 2011.
In January 2011, the non-profit IPE ranked Apple last among 29 tech companies for its responsiveness to health and environmental concerns in China. The ranking was based a string of Foxconn worker suicides as well as concerns at Wintek, a touch-screen factory where plant workers became ill, allegedly from n-hexane exposure.
Of two dozen suspected Apple suppliers named in IPE reports last year, Apple has confirmed it works with at least seven – Foxconn Technology, Meiko Electronics, Unimicron, Ibiden Electronics, Wintek, Nan Ya Printed Circuit Board and Compeq Manufacturing.
Last month Apple published for the first time a list of 156 suppliers that account for 97 percent of its outsourced manufacturing. According to the report, audits showed that 112 facilities were not handling hazardous chemicals properly; 69 facilities were not recycling or disposing of hazardous waste properly; and 58 facilities were noncompliant for air emissions. Apple ordered corrective actions.
The company said it increased its number of audits by 80 percent in 2011, over 2010 levels, and in addition to its standard audits, conducted specialized environmental inspections to address specific concerns at 14 suppliers in China.
To join the Fair Labor Association, Apple paid $250,000 and has also paid the group a six-figure sum to audit Foxconn and the other suppliers. Foxconn last week said it would increase wages as much as 25 percent for its workers in China, for a total wage increase of more than 300 percent in two years, EBN reports.
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