Apple turns to supply chain ethics


Tech giant Apple has revealed that it cut carbon emissions by almost 14,000 tonnes in 2015, as the firm continued its drive to improve supply chain sustainability and ethics, its 2016 supplier responsibility report has revealed.

The latest report follows the news that 93 per cent of the tech giants global facilities are now running on renewable energy, announced at the latest iPhone SE unveiling event in California.

At the same event Apple executives introduced Liam, Apple’s iPhone-dissecting robot that can take apart a discarded cell phone every 11 seconds to recover valuable metals, including cobalt, lithium, gold, silver and platinum. It goes without saying that as a brand, Apple stands for innovation — innovation in its technology, design and product experience.

At the same time, like its peers and competitors in the electronics industry, it faces tough issues around labor and human rights in its relationships with its suppliers — some of which manage massive workforces in countries such as China.

Research has revealed consumers are increasingly conscious of the ethics of electronics companies. With allegations of child labour and extremely low wages in developing nations have dogged many companies and angered consumers over the years.

With a focus on the brands global impact, Apple has carried out an extensive auditing process that has seen the company slash emissions by 13,800 tonnes, save 3.8bn gallons of water and diverted more than 73,000 metric tonnes of waste from landfill.

Apple found that almost three-quarters of its total carbon footprint found in the supply chain

In letter published in the report, Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams said:

“In 2015, work-hour compliance among our suppliers reached 97%, a number that is virtually unheard of in our industry. Since 2008, more than 9.2 million workers have been trained on their rights, more than 1.4 million people have participated in Apple educational programs, and more than $25.6m in excessive recruitment fees have been repaid to foreign contract workers by suppliers as a result of our efforts.

At the heart of this effort is Apple’s responsibility to the people who help make our products. Our commitment to them will never waver, and we will always try to do what is right by doing more and doing it better.”

The progress report shows extensive compliance changes have taken place regarding Apple’s ethical business practices, supply chain ethics and worker and labour rights.

As well as ensuring ethical practices are carried out in regards to child labour and 60-hour workweeks – 2015 saw compliance rise by 5% in this regard – Apple has put a greater emphasis on supply chain ethics in regards to conflict minerals.

After a five year effort which concluded in December, Apple is now independently auditing 100% of its suppliers over conflict minerals, which the company claims has ‘improved sourcing practices for smelters and the mining industry as a whole’.

For 2016 the company will focus on enhancing these practices by conversing with authorities over any related armed groups in areas where suppliers operate.


Photo Credit: Allen Lai from Flickr