Apple Names Names in 2013 Supplier Sustainability Report

Apple released its 2013 Supplier Sustainability Report update Friday, and the company's not messing around when it comes to some of the suppliers violating its code of conduct. Apple publicly named some of the companies found to have forged documents to help children—and in some cases their families—get around Apple's child labor rules.

Apple Workers in China

Photo of Workers Performing Quality Control Checks on MacBook Pro Displays
Source: Apple

Apple has been under intense scrutiny for working conditions in its supply chain, effectively being singled out amongst all the electronics firms who outsource their production to Asian manufacturing. While Apple was already doing more than most of its competitors to audit its supply chain, the company has significantly stepped up those efforts, and releases reports highlighting current results.

Friday's report focuses on work hours, child labor, safety, worker training, and the company's role in working with the Fair Labor Association. Apple also makes the claim that the steps it is taking to audit and manage its supply chain is good for workers and their well-being.

In the section outlining its findings in underage workers, Apple said:

In 2012, we found no cases of underage labor at any of our final assembly suppliers. While we are encouraged by these results, we will continue regular audits and go deeper into our supply chain to ensure that there are no underage workers at any Apple supplier. Many suppliers tell us that we are the only company performing these audits, so when we do find and correct problems, the impact goes far beyond our own suppliers.

Apple did, however, find child labor in its broader supply chain, and Apple said that in most cases, an unscrupulous agent was found "willfully and illegally" recruiting children to work in the factories.

From the report:

In January 2012, for example, we audited a supplier, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co., Ltd. (PZ) (广东昭信平洲电子有限公司), that produces a standard circuit board component used by many other companies in many industries. Our auditors were dismayed to discover 74 cases of workers under age 16 — a core violation of our Code of Conduct. As a result, we terminated our business relationship with PZ.

Note that Apple is naming names in both English and Chinese. The company also fingered Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources Co., Ltd. (深圳全顺人力资源有限公司), one of the largest labor agencies in the Shenzgen region that does so much manufacturing for the world.

Apple said that Quanshun "knowingly provided the children" who were working at Pinzhou Electronics, and that it, "conspired with families to forge age verification documents and make the workers seem older than they were."

Apple reported the agency to the regional government, which then suspended the license of Quanshun. In addition, PZ was required to pay for the return of the kids to their families and the cost of their education.

Apple also said that it has expanded the number of workers it tracks from 500,000 in January to 1 million in December. Despite the increase in sheer numbers, the company said that it reached 92 percent work-hour compliance (i.e. compliance with a 60-hour cap on how many hours workers are allowed to work).

In 2012, some 1.3 million workers and managers received "Apple-designed training about local laws, their rights as workers, occupational health and safety, and Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct." That's "nearly double" the number of workers since the program was begun in 2008.

There's more in the full report.