Apple Audits Working Conditions at Supplier Sites

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February 14, 2014

Apple's eighth annual ?Supplier Responsibility Progress Report? claimed the company sourced materials ethically and offered "safe and ethical working conditions."

Apple hardware factories operated without use of tantalum, a metal commonly used in electronics, from areas engaged in warfare, according to the company.

A number of warlords, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had profited from the sale of ores that contained tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold to suppliers that made parts for electronics.

Technology giants had been under pressure after a campaign aimed at keeping minerals from those areas ? often called conflict minerals ? out of their supply chains.

Apple said it verified through third parties that the tantalum smelters used by its suppliers were conflict-free, and said it was pushing suppliers of tin, tungsten and gold also to use sources verified as conflict-free.

Nokia spoke about conflict minerals two years ago and published a list of steps it had had initiated to avoid transactions involving conflict minerals.

Apple had uncovered labor violations in its supply chain, which included the use of underage workers and abuses of migrant laborers lured by recruiters to work in factories making its devices.

The iPhone maker conducted over 400 reviews across multiple levels in its supply chain covering a combined workforce of 1.5 million, according to its eighth annual internal audit.

According to the company that 95% of the facilities of its suppliers now keep work to below 60 hours per week.

The report gave an inside view of the work that went into making the company's gadgets, across the entire gamut, from the mining of minerals used in components to assembly lines in China where a final product is put together.

The latest fiscal saw Apple sell a record 150.3 million iPhones and 71 million iPads in its latest fiscal year, which led to pressure on suppliers such as Foxconn Technology Group to manufacture enough devices fast enough to keep up with demand.

Over the last two decades, Apple and other technology companies had shifted production to Asian countries particularly China, where cheap labor was forced into long hours of work and many electronic parts were manufactured.

Labor rights groups had slammed Apple for issues at suppliers ranging from excessive overtime to frustrated employees committing suicides at plants owned by Foxconn, Apple?s largest contract manufacturer.

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