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Apple’s Suppliers Tally 3 Hazardous Waste Violations in 2009

AppleMfgAuditsApple has released its 24-page 2010 supplier responsibility progress report (PDF) that covers employee training programs, foreign contract workers, supplier management systems, and monitoring suppliers for compliance.

During its 2009 audits, Apple found 17 core violations: three cases where the supplier contracted with non-certified vendors for hazardous waste disposal, eight violations for excessive recruitment fees, three cases of underage workers, and three cases of falsified records. Overall, Apple found that 98 percent of its suppliers were in compliance.

Apple released the report just a month after opposing a shareholder resolution that would require the company to publish a corporate responsibility report that indicates how the company will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address other environmental and social issues.

Apple requires that all suppliers meet its Supplier Code of Conduct that includes labor and human rights, health and safety, the environment, ethics and management systems.

In terms of the environment, the consumer electronics manufacturer evaluates its suppliers on hazardous substance management, wastewater management, air emissions management, solid waste management and environmental permits and reporting.

To ensure that its suppliers are in compliance, Apple has a monitoring program that includes factory audits, corrective action plans and verification measures. The computer maker conducted onsite audits at 102 facilities in 2009, up from 39 facilities in 2007. Facilities included all final assembly manufacturers, first-time audits of component and non-production suppliers, and 15 repeat audits of facilities that had a core violation.

The three facilities in non-compliance with Apple’s hazardous waste rules had to hire certified vendors to handle their disposal and undergo a review of their systems for managing hazardous substances via a third-party company, as well as perform inspections of their wastewater discharge systems.

Apple also requires that its suppliers only use materials that have been produced through a socially and environmentally responsible process. The computer maker cites tantalum capacitors as an electronic component example that has a lengthy supply chain — mines, brokers, ore processors, refiners, component manufacturers, board assembly manufacturers and final assembly manufacturers, which makes verification that much more difficult.

To help solve the challenge, the Extractives Workgroup, a joint effort of the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), of which Apple is a member, has commissioned the nonprofit organization RESOLVE to map the supply chain for tantalum and tin, and to develop standards that apply throughout the supply chain.

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