Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Apple Computers find labour violations in supply chain; sets new benchmark for disclosure

In its 2010 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, Apple Computers has disclosed that their auditors continued to find serious labour violations in supplier factories around the world last year.

Apple audited 102 suppliers in 2009, up from 83 in 2008. Eighty of these were audited for the first time while the remaining 22 were repeat audits. The computer giant requires its suppliers to comply with the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct.

The report says: "In 2009, our audits identified 17 core violations: eight violations involving excessive recruitment fees; three cases where underage workers had been hired; three cases where our supplier contracted with noncertified vendors for hazardous waste disposal; and three cases of falsified records provided during the audit."

Then the report goes on to inform what remedial actions Apple has taken to correct these violations. For example, audit findings led to reimbursement of $2.2 million to foreign migrant workers who had paid the sum to middlemen in illegal recruitment fee over the past two years.

Apple's simple to read, and understand, annual report sets a new benchmark for reporting on supply chain responsibility. Something that fashion retailers have failed to do. And other electronics peers have not bothered to match.

Apple started paying attention to supply chain responsibility after several high profile cases were reported highlighting labour and human rights violations in its supplier factories in Asia. Though the electronics industry has introduced Electronics Industry Code of Conduct, a voluntary initiative, the uptake has been frustratingly slow.

While the mainstream media has taken interest in exposing bad working conditions in fashion retailers' supplier factories, electronics supply chain has generally remained off their radar. But Apple's report, as well as several other reports by activists, indicate that electronics supply chain potentially poses serious social and environmental risks which must be managed effectively by the brands to prevent reputational damage.

Here is an interesting report "Silicon Sweatshops" which alleges poor working conditions in supplier factories of some of the largest electronics brands.

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