Apple has announced its annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, providing insight into the company’s efforts to improve working conditions at its supplier facilities and protect the environment. Highlights of the report include the training of three million supplier employees on worker rights in the past year, the launch of health programs specifically targeted at female employees with a goal of training one million more women by 2020, and the repayment of $1.9 million in excessive recruitment fees to 1,558 people affected by bonded labor. While not to be confused with Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Reports, the Supplier Responsibility report does also cover environmental initiatives within the supply chain, including the expansion of zero waste to landfill efforts to India, deployment of alternative green cleaners in final assembly facilities, and a 37 percent average wastewater reuse rate with freshwater savings of 5.1 billion gallons.
The report also details some of the continuing challenges Apple faces in bringing its suppliers into compliance with its Supplier Code of Conduct, noting that while conducted a large number of audits and assessments — 756 assessments in 30 countries — it found 48 “Core Violations” which the company defines as “the most serious breaches of compliance” and issues for which it has zero tolerance, such as underage workers, involuntary labour, document falsification, intimidation of or retaliation against workers, and environmental and safety threads. Of the Core Violations, 44 were in the Labor and Human Rights areas, and included three bonded-labor violations, 38 related to falsification of working hours, one access restriction violation, and two underage labor violations. Four Core Violations were identified related to environmental policies, with three related to improper wastewater management and one related to air emissions; these suppliers were placed on immediate probation. No core violations were discovered in the Health and Safety category. The majority of other less serious violations found during the audits were related to wages, benefits, and working hours, such as failures to pay for mandatory pre-shift meetings. Overall, Apple reported that the number of high-performing suppliers increased by 35 percent, while low-performers decreased by 71 percent.