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Apple is criticised for suppliers' poor working conditions

The dark side of record profits
Thu Jan 20 2011, 11:09

MAKER OF SHINY TOYS Apple has been criticised by the Chinese Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) for not overseeing environmental and safety standards at its Chinese suppliers.

The IPE, backed by other green groups, published a report on what it claims is malpractice in Apple's supply chain. In a statement, Ma Jun from the IPE said, "we've found that Apple isn't honouring its commitment in ensuring its supply chain's work safety and environmental responsibility and giving dignity and respect to the workers."

Apple makes a point of highlighting its so-called 'green practices' in its products, so it is surprising that the IPE used such abrasive language to describe the firm's supply chain. Ma said of Apple that "they only care about the price and quality [of their products] and not the environmental and social responsibility issues. In some ways they drive the suppliers to cut corners to win their contracts".

Referring to an incident cited in the report where at least 47 workers were poisoned at Lianjain Technology, a firm the IPE claims supplies touchscreen displays to Apple, Ma said, "Apple's lack of responsiveness eventually made us quite shocked. It's the whole complacency that it doesn't have to be accountable to the NGOs, to the communities, even to the poisoned workers."

Apple told Reuters that it had a rigorous auditing regime, where it monitored and investigated its suppliers regularly. The firm claims that its "supplier responsibility reports document the progress of our extensive auditing program since 2006".

However Apple's auditing procedures are not rigorous enough according to Ma, who said, "it's not easy to control [the supply chain] but peer brands are doing a lot more [than Apple] to deal with this." The report claims that at least 49 workers in factories assembling products for Apple fell ill.

Last year one of Apple's largest Chinese suppliers, Foxconn, had to deal with a number of worker suicides. Many commentators blamed the deaths on harsh working conditions at Foxconn's factories, leading Apple CEO Steve Jobs to claim that Foxconn wasn't a sweatshop.

The IPE's report comes less than 48 hours after Apple announced a profit of $6 billion for the three months leading up to Christmas. If accurate, the IPE's claims paint a disturbing picture of just how Jobs' Mob achieved those profits. µ



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