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Apple Releases Supplier List, as NGOs Praise Chinese Transparency Progress

The National Resources Defense Council and Beijing-based NGO the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs have said China is making steady progress on environmental transparency, the same weekend that Apple published its first list of suppliers.

In their third annual Pollution Information Transparency Index (Chinese only), the NGOs said the public is increasingly well-informed about pollution and putting pressure on companies and government. Highly publicized campaigns have forced the Chinese government and Apple, among other major players, to release information on pollution, according to the Guardian.

The report’s assessment is reflected in the Beijing government’s recent decision to start releasing real-time data on PM2.5 particulates, and in Apple’s publication of its 2012 supplier responsibility report last Friday.

Alongside the report Apple has 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.

One year ago the IPE ranked Apple last among 29 tech companies for their responsiveness to health and environmental concerns in China. The report says that Apple ignored concerns at Wintek, the touch-screen factory where plant workers became ill from n-hexane exposure. The IPE said Apple has refused to confirm who its suppliers were, and would not confirm that Wintek was among them.

The list just out from Apple acknowledges Wintek as a supplier.

The NGO report noted other advances in corporate reporting, saying that more than 500 companies are now sharing information about their monitoring and disclosure systems with non-profit organizations, up from a handful five years ago.

But overall the transparency situation remains poor, the non-profits said. While local governments in more prosperous areas such as the Pearl River delta and Yangtze basin have improved their environmental transparency, the report said, others in areas including Shandong and Inner Mongolia have actually become less responsive.

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