CHINESE AUTHORITIES have ordered an Apple supplier to close part of its plant in Suzhou after residents living nearby raised significant environmental concerns.
The Chinese government, widely criticised for its poor policies on environmental issues, has taken a tough stance with the Taiwanese company Catcher Technology, which makes metal casings for notebook computers including Apple's Macbook Air and Macbook Pro. The company also makes chassis for Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Sony.
The shutdown follows complaints from local residents, who said that they could smell foul odours emanating from the plant.
Catcher Technology is now attempting to address concerns by refurbishing the affected part of the plant, which it hopes to complete by the end of the month. However, it will then need regulator approval before it can reopen, which could delay things considerably.
The ordered closure might mark a change in government tactics in efforts to improve China's reputation at home and abroad. While this is good news for the environment, it could be terrible news for the technology industry, which is largely dependent on a number of Chinese companies and manufacturing plants to meet demands.
"Even assuming its competition can somehow make up for the supply shortfall with additional output while Catcher's production is disrupted, we believe the news is generally bad for the overall [PC] sector," said Jenny Lai, head of Taiwan research at HSBC, according to the Financial Times.
This is the latest supply setback to affect Apple. Earlier this year it was hit by supply issues after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan put some suppliers temporarily out of business.
This is also not the first environmental concern to hit Apple. In August a report was released by Chinese environmental groups that accused a number of Apple suppliers of polluting the environment. Apple's 2010 audit also found that 80 facilities used by its suppliers were not up to scratch. Some of these might now be forced to address long-standing concerns, but if so, this will likely come at a temporary cost of lower supply to the world's top computer makers. µ