How Apple Handles Bonded Labor, Conflicted Minerals, Hazardous Waste


Apple has released its eighth annual Supplier Responsibility progress report. The company says it enforced its supplier code of conduct through 451 audits, at multiple levels of its supply chain facilities, that collectively employ nearly 1.4 million workers. The audits mark a 51 percent increase from 298 audits in 2012. Apple is also releasing its Supplier Responsibility Standards, more than 100 pages of requirements Apple suppliers are expected to follow.

Some of the revelations from the audit:

  • The audits uncovered 23 workers who were underage when hired, significantly fewer than the previous year. As part of Apple’s Underage Labor Remediation Program, suppliers found violating underage worker rules must return underage workers to school, finance their education at a school chosen by their families, and continue providing income to the workers matching what they received while employed.
  • A large percentage of the world’s tin — including tin in Apple products — comes from Bangka and Belitung Islands, Indonesia. After learning that some of the tin may contribute to environmental damage or pose risks to miners, Apple says it went to Indonesia to investigate and visited with key stakeholders, including officials from the government, NGOs, and the smelters. The company has since worked with the EICC and IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative to develop the Indonesian Tin Working Group.
  • Apple completed more than 520 environmental profile surveys in 2013, focusing on the company’s top 200 suppliers.
  • Four facilities conducted pregnancy testing. Two facilities conducted medical tests such as Hepatitis B tests. Apple says it classified these practices as discrimination, even if permissible under local laws. Apple required the facilities to stop the pregnancy testing and develop and implement anti-discrimination management procedures. In addition, facilities conducted training for appropriate employees.
  • 50 facilities did not provide regular free health exams to juvenile workers. Facilities were required to provide health exams to all juvenile workers and implement management procedures to regularly confirm health exams are provided to juvenile workers. Apple’s code sets a maximum of 60 work hours per week and requires at least one day of rest per seven days of work.
  • 106 facilities did not pay night shift workers the appropriate pay for legal holidays, typically when the night shift spanned over two days. 71 facilities underpaid overtime due to incorrect calculations. in 2013 Apple required its suppliers to repay more than $2.1 million.
  • 105 facilities did not provide sufficient social insurance.
  • 14 facilities were found with excessive recruiting fees which we consider bonded labor. Suppliers were required to pay back any excess foreign contract worker fees, totaling $3.9 million in 2013.
  • Apple conducted 33 bonded labor focused investigations in 2013.
  • Eight facilities were found with underage labor, with a total of 11 active cases and 12 historical cases.
  • 209 facilities were found lacking approval or inspection reports or building certificates related to some aspect of fire safety, construction completion, or lightning prevention safety.
  • 157 facilities did not have proper licenses, permits, or certificates for at least one machinery operator.
  • 144 facilities had at least one machine that lacked or had inadequate machine guarding such as covers to stamping or cutting machines and protections on conveyer belts.
  • 96 facilities lacked Lockout Tagout (LOTO) systems. While not a legal requirement for running a factory, Apple suppliers must implement this best practice. The company required the facilities to develop and implement LOTO management and inspection procedures, as well as conduct training.
  • At 90 facilities, there were instances where appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) such as safety shoes, gloves, masks, goggles and earplugs were not provided to workers. At 98 facilities, PPE provided to the workers did not meet relevant standards.
  • 137 facilities lacked exit signs, emergency lighting, or evacuation route indicators, and 94 had insufficient signs, lighting, and routes.
  • 115 facilities lacked regular monitoring, testing, or maintenance of fire protection systems.
  • 106 facilities had obstructed emergency exits or evacuation passages.
  • 129 facilities did not have smoke detectors in dormitory or dining sleeping rooms, public areas, or both.
  • 112 facilities lacked ergonomics control management processes and procedures to identify risk and implement proper ergonomic controls.
  • 159 facilities were found without proper storage areas for hazardous waste.
  • 96 facilities disposed of hazardous waste by unqualified vendors.
  • 120 facilities lacked or had inadequate Air emissions monitoring or reports. 3 facilities released air emissions without treatment.
  • 11 facilities discharged wastewater into pipes, drains, or directly into bodies of water without treatment
  • 104 facilities did not have Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documentation, or it was incomplete.
  • One facility was found using a chemical which is banned by Apple.
  • Two facilities incorrectly disposed of hazardous waste.

Here are additional highlights from the report:

  1. Apple suppliers achieved an average of 95 percent compliance with the company’s maximum 60-hour work week.
  2. 18 factories now offer free education and development program, twice as many as in 2012. More than 280,000 workers in 2013 took courses in accounting, English, web design, flower arranging, and so on.
  3. Apple launched the Apple Supplier EHS Academy — a formal, 18-month EHS training and education program. In 2013, over 240 personnel representing factories with over 270,000 workers enrolled in this program.
  4. In January 2014 Apple confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in its supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors.
  5. Apple says it is pushing tin, tungsten, and gold suppliers to use verified sources. Apple is also releasing, for the first time, a list of the smelters and refiners in its supply chain, along with their verification status.
  6. Apple launched a pilot of the company’s clean water program with 13 supplier sites — who collectively use more than 41 million cubic meters of water per year — with a goal to “reuse a significant amount of treated process wastewater and recycle water within the production process.”
  7. Through its Supplier Employee Education and Development (SEED) program, Apple says it has invested millions of dollars to equip classrooms on the factory grounds with computers, educational software, and video conferencing systems. The company doubled the facilities in the SEED program from nine to 18 in 2013. Over 480,000 workers have taken classes through the program since 2008.
  8. In 2013, more than 240 participants from over 60 supplier facilities, representing over 270,000 workers, enrolled in Apple’s environmental, health and safety (EHS) academy. Apple says it plans to expand the program in 2014.
  9. The company conducted 33 specialized audits at facilities employing migrant workers who may be at risk for unfair treatment.
  10. in 2013, Apple partnered with Stanford University’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP) and Dell on a project designed to match suppliers with credible schools, drive accountability for vocational schools, and raise the quality of education for student interns.


  • You can find a copy of the Apple supplier responsibility progress report here. 
  • You can find a copy of the Apple supplier responsibility standards here. 
  • You can find a list of Apple suppliers here.
  • Find the 2012 report here.

[Image courtesy: Apple]


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