Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Progress Report Shows Progress

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Apple released its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report last week, a report that highlighted the company’s efforts in enforcing its code of conduct at suppliers’ workplaces. In addition, Apple announced that it has joined the Fair Labor Association to aid in these efforts, and for the first time, the company even publicly released its list of suppliers.

Apple has a code of conduct that it requires its suppliers to adhere to. Included are provisions that workplaces are safe, do not employ underage workers, cap the number of hours that workers can be asked to work in a week, offer fair pay (including overtime), and other quality of life provisions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email to the company’s employees highlighting some of the progress made in the past year. A full copy of the email is posted on, but Mr. Cook chose to point out the improvements in the number of audits conducted. The Supplier Responsibility team conducted 229, which was an 80% increase over the previous year.

He also pointed out the advancements in hiring practices by his company’s suppliers. Eliminating underage employment has been an area of concern and last year they found no underage workers at their final assembly suppliers. There is still work to be done with some of the other employers, however, and they will continue to work to eliminate this practice.

Mr. Cook also pointed out that Apple has also worked to improve living conditions for workers in the area of dormitory housing. Having safe, comfortable facilities is important to them and several suppliers have made improvements, or built entirely new ones, to meet Apple’s requirements.

Apple is working to educate workers as to its code of conduct, worker’s rights, and health and safety rules. In addition, free educational programs are available to some workers where they have a chance to learn business, entrepreneur, or English skills.

In a first for the tech industry, Mr. Cook also announced that Apple will be joining the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit group dedicated to “protecting workers’ rights and improving working conditions worldwide.” This group will have access to Apple’s supply chain and can audit those suppliers and report their findings independently.

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The “This American Life” story on NPR on Saturday (possibly re-aired from previous week, I’m not sure) explained how the factories just have a bunch of older folks ready to move into a section of the work area where inspectors are going around to determine whether there are underage workers.  So, apparently, claiming that no underage workers is not a big deal as that can be easily faked.

Not sure whether this is lipstick on a pig or enough of a real thing.  I think it’s the right thing to do in the overall scheme of things, and it may actually take 20 to 30 years for real progress to occur.  But progress will occur.  It has occurred in every other first-world country that once had a huge manufacturing base that over-used their workers and abused child labor.

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