Apple announced in a post on the environmental section of its website late Wednesday evening that it is publicly releasing a previously internal specification outlining which chemicals and substances are barred from use in its supply chain. You can find the complete specification here.
Many of the substances listed in the specification are outlawed by specific international and United States regulation, but some of the restrictions go beyond governmental regulation and are banned via “Apple policy.”
The post draws attention to two specific chemicals, benzene and n-hexane, the use of which in electronic products has been drawing criticism from groups such as China Labor Watch. The newly released specification explicitly prohibits the use of those chemicals in the final assembly process, and a second Apple supply chain report indicates that Apple has sent teams into its assembly facilities to monitor their use. Re/Code notes that of Apple’s 22 final-assembly factories, traces of benzene or n-hexane, in line with Apple’s previous safety limits, were found in four of them.
The post is signed by Apple’s environmental chief Lisa Jackson, who joined Apple in 2013 after four years as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson has kickstarted several environmental initiatives since joining Apple, including programs to increase the use of renewable energy at its data centers, like the massive solar and fuel cell farms in various stages of completion in North Carolina.
However, Apple’s manufacturing processes remain a source of controversy for the company. Apple contracts with myriad suppliers and manufacturers across Asia to build the millions of devices it sells, and some of those contractors have been accused of using underage labor as well as questionable environmental practices. Manufacturing in Asia can be dicey, but transparency — like Apple’s clear supplier code of conduct — is the key to improvement, and a public regulated substances specification is a good step.