Apple Supplier Responsibility report 2011 - coverage including NGO comments

On 14 February 2011, Apple released a report: "Apple Supplier Responsibility: 2011 Progress Report" [PDF].

Below is a selection of press coverage.

"Apple Says Chinese Supplier Made Changes After Suicides", Miguel Helft, Bits blog, New York Times, 15 Feb 2011:
"Apple sent Timothy D. Cook, its chief operating officer, to China last year to review the operations of a principal manufacturing partner after nearly a dozen suicides by factory employees raised concerns about working conditions.  In a report on suppliers..., Apple said that Mr. Cook and a team of independent suicide prevention experts conducted a review of Foxconn’s factory...and made a series of recommendations... Mr. Cook and the team also reviewed changes that Foxconn had put in place, which included 'hiring a large number of psychological counselors, establishing a 24-hour care center and even attaching large nets to the factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides,' Apple said... 'The investigation found that Foxconn’s response had definitely saved lives.' "

"Apple admits child labor growing problem at its China factories", Rob Schmitz, Marketplace [USA], 15 Feb 2011:
"I spoke with Ma Jun today. He's China's most famous environmentalist, and he's spent the last year trying to get Apple to admit that one of its suppliers had exposed workers to a toxic chemical, poisoning 137 of them. Up until now, Apple ignored this issue and insinuated it didn't even have a relationship with the supplier. Today Apple finally admits its supplier was responsible for this, and it says the supplier is no longer using the chemical that poisoned the workers and it's also paying medical bills. Ma Jun told me he's pleased that Apple is addressing these problems, but he says these problems aren't going away and Apple still needs to do more."

"Apple report reveals child labour increase", Tania Branigan, Guardian [UK], 15 Feb 2011:
"Apple found more than 91 children working at its suppliers last year, nine times as many as the previous year, according to its annual report on its manufacturers.  The US company has also acknowledged for the first time that 137 workers were poisoned at a Chinese firm making its products and said less than a third of the facilities it audited were complying with its code on working hours...But there were some signs of improvement in other areas...'I think it is positive that after such a long delay Apple has finally acknowledged the [n-hexane] problem,' said Ma Jun of the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, one of the organisations that criticised the US firm last month.  But he added: 'This report shows that Apple is still not ready to accept public scrutiny ... We have listed the names of some Apple suppliers but there is no mention of them [here].'  Debby Chan, of Hong Kong's Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour campaign, said there was no way for others to monitor the behaviour of suppliers because Apple would not identify them or even say how many it had.  'I regard this report as a means of image-building rather than ensuring compliance with labour rights,' she added.  Apple said that immigrant workers in countries such as Malaysia had been reimbursed $3.4m (£2.1m) in 'exorbitant' recruitment fees since 2008 thanks to its checks. It has also increased efforts to crack down on the use of potential conflict minerals and expanded social responsibility training...The report also said that 99% of facilities met its freedom of association requirements.  But independent unions are not allowed on the Chinese mainland and Geoff Crothall, of Hong Kong's China Labour Bulletin, said: 'It is Henry Ford-style freedom of association: You can have any union as long as it is [in] the Associated Federation of Trade Unions.' "

"Apple Report Details Supplier 'Core Violations'", David Chartier, MacWorld, 14 Feb 2011:
"Apple began auditing its supplier's facilities in 2007 to verify that they meet, or are aspiring to meet, various criteria of its Supplier Code of Conduct, a series of guidelines that is modeled after (but, according to Apple, are more stringent than) the Electronics Industry Code of Conduct...
Training and education
Apple introduced the Train-the-Trainer program in 2008, which educates workers, supervisors, and managers in facilities that make Apple products on things like the code of conduct, occupational health and safety, and workers' rights. In 2010, Apple expanded the program...The training is working, Apple claims. A survey showed an increase in confidence among assembly line workers...that they can provide feedback without any concern of negative repercussions.  Apple says it also found a few aspects of its program in need of improvement...
After one of its first audits in 2008 revealed a number of unethical hiring practices, Apple launched initiatives to combat involuntary labor through the use of excessively high recruitment fees...Apple now regulates against what it calls 'debt-bonded labor' by mandating that recruitment fees for the facilities it uses cannot exceed more than one month's wages. Going one step further, Apple also requires suppliers to reimburse overpaid fees for all contract workers, even for employees who are not building Apple products. Since 2008, more than $3.4 million in overcharges have been returned, and as far as Apple knows, it is the only company in the electronics industry that mandates reimbursement of excessive recruitment fees...
Conflict-free minerals
...Apple has been mapping its supply chain and working with the Extractives Workgroup, a joint effort of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, to validate conflict-free sources and comply with new provisions of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection and Wall Street Reform Act, which became U.S. law in July 2010.  In 2010 the Extractives Workgroup began audits to identify smelters which can demonstrate that they do not get their materials from conflict areas associated with the Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring countries. Apple expects audits for smelters of two of its key materials, tantalum and tin, to be completed by the end of 2011...
Core violations
...Apple [also] outlined a number of other 'core violations'--serious abuses of its Supplier Code of Conduct--that it found in 2010, as well as how it reacted to them.  Core violations included worker endangerment, health impairment from exposure to the hazardous n-hexane chemical, and employee coaching. In all but one case, facilities followed Apple's requirements and discontinued the violating practices. Apple caught one facility repeatedly offering cash to third-party auditors in order to reduce the number of audit findings, so it subsequently terminated business with the facility."
[also refers to Foxconn suicides, child labour]