A new report released on Wednesday morning by a group of Chinese watchdog groups criticizes Apple for using suppliers that consistently threaten the environment and the health of their workers. It’s the second such report this year, following one released in January, and the groups say Apple isn’t doing enough to fix the problems that both reports bring to light.
The report specifically names five suppliers, some of whom are known to work with Apple, like Foxconn, and some of whom are only suspected to be Apple suppliers (through public information and court documents gathered by the Chinese environmental groups), since the Mac maker doesn’t make public the source of its components. The watchdog agencies looked into manufacturing facilities in six different locations in China and their surrounding communities and found significant environmental damage, such as extremely high levels of pollutant discharge into nearby lakes and rivers. The groups contend that in addition to damaging effects on local ecosystems, this could significantly affect the health of local residents.
According to the report, the reason Apple is worth special attention is because it has apparently been one of the electronics manufacturers most reluctant to take steps to clean up its act:
Apple has become a special case. Even when faced with specific allegations regarding its suppliers, the company refuses to provide answers and continues to state that “it is our long-term policy not to disclose supplier information.” A large number of IT supplier violation records have already been publicized; however, Apple chooses not to face such information and continues to use these companies as suppliers. This can only be seen as a deliberate refusal of responsibility.
Apple has already responded by telling the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs’ director and report co-author Ma Jun that some of those factories listed are not in fact suppliers of components for the company, according to the Globe and Mail, but it would not go into further detail about which specific factories weren’t building Apple parts.
An Apple spokeswoman also reiterated Apple’s stance regarding supplier responsibility in response to the allegations, saying that the company “require[s] that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.”
Last week Apple came under renewed fire for an incident that resulted in the poisoning of nearly 200 workers in 2009 at its Chinese supplier Wintek, and an explosion in May at Foxconn, another Apple supplier, led to two deaths and a number of injuries.
Attention to how Apple’s supply chain operates is only likely to increase as the company continues to grow its presence worldwide, and especially in China. It will be interesting to see if calls for greater transparency are answered, given Apple’s generally secretive tendencies.