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Apple is moving to become the world’s first fair trade tech company. It has, for the first time, disclosed the identities of 156 of its suppliers and has also announced that it will become the first tech company to join the Fair Labour Association (FLA).
The move is something of an about turn for the company, which had previously been secretive about the suppliers used to make its various idevices.
This new policy of openness comes in the wake of extensive campaigning for such a course of action. The campaigning followed revelations about high numbers of worker suicides at Foxconn factories in China. The Taiwanese-based company is one of Apple’s primary manufacturers.
“We’re extremely proud to be the first technology company admitted to the FLA,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations.
“Last year we performed more than 200 audits at our supplier’s facilities around the world. With the benefit of the FLA’s experience and expertise, we will continue to drive improvements for workers and provide even greater transparency into our supply chain.”
In its latest sustainability report, Apple found that a number of its supplier had violated its labour policies. The code, for instance claims to “protects against discrimination in a range of areas: race, colour, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, religion, political affiliation, union membership, national origin, and marital status”.
The company also claims “prohibit the use of pregnancy tests and medical tests as a condition of employment.” In its audit it found “24 facilities conducting pregnancy tests and 56 others that did not have policies prohibiting such discrimination”.
Apple claims it forced the companies “to stop testing and to implement policies against the practice”.
On the environmental front it found that some 112 of its supplier facilities “were not handling hazardous chemicals properly,” while 69 “were not recycling or disposing of hazardous waste properly”.
Worryingly, the report indicates that some 109 (around 70%) of Apple’s suppliers violate at least one or more of its labour conditions. Despite this, the Cupertino-based giant has fired just one unnamed, repeat offender.
The concern about Labour practices at Apple reaches right to the top. In a letter to employees, CEO Tim Cook underlined the companies claimed commitment to changing abusive labour practices.
In the letter, Cook said:
Thanks to our supplier responsibility program, we’ve seen dramatic improvements in hiring practices by our suppliers. To prevent the use of underage labor, our team interviews workers, checks employment records and audits the age verification systems our suppliers use. These efforts have been very successful and, as a result, cases of underage labor were down sharply from last year. We found no underage workers at our final assembly suppliers, and we will not rest until the number is zero everywhere.