Apple shows increase in worker’s human rights in 2013 – report

13 Feb 2014

Apple has released its Supplier Responsibility Report 2013 showing significant improvements in the human rights of its supplier’s employees, while also showing a need for improvement.

The report states that in 2013, Apple conducted 451 audits of factories across the globe that are contracted to manufacture the company’s smartphones, as well as training 1.5m staff in workplace safety.

The company has been under serious pressure from human rights groups regarding the health and well-being of its contracted suppliers, particularly in Asia, where working rights have been heavily criticised with one company, Foxconn, seeing workers in some of their megafactories in China taking their own lives due to stress.

Fair working hours

One area in particular that Apple was looking to challenge was their suppliers’ flagrant over-working of staff and now claims 95pc of these companies adhere to a strict maximum working hours of 60 hours per week, a minor increase of 3pc from 2012’s figure.

While the tech giants have been quick to point out the successes of the increased scrutiny in the last number of years, some areas of worker’s rights remain a problem.

For example, last year only 66pc of management systems were compliant in the protection of juvenile workers across its suppliers while wages for employees was not deemed of the highest standard, with only 72pc of management sticking with Apple’s guidelines.

Worker’s right have improved when it comes to a person’s right to come and go freely, however, with 99pc compliance in this regard.

Outside of work conditions, questions have been asked not just to Apple, but smartphone manufacturers worldwide, about where they source the minerals that make up the hardware for the technology.

Better environmental standards

In the report’s initial statement, the company has re-iterated all its material comes from ethical sources.

“In January 2014, we confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third-party auditors, and we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.

“To heighten smelter accountability and help stakeholders follow our progress, we are releasing, for the first time, a list of the smelters and refiners in our supply chain along with their verification status.”

Indicating a change opinion of the company, it has received praise from environmental groups like Greenpeace’s energy campaigner Tom Dowdall, who issued a statement welcoming the report: “Apple’s increased transparency about its suppliers is becoming a hallmark of Tim Cook’s leadership at the company. Apple has flexed its muscles in the past to push suppliers to remove hazardous substances from products and provide more renewable energy for data centres, and it is proving the same model can work to reduce the use of conflict minerals.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic