Storms on Apple’s Supply Chain Begin to Settle

Apple’s supply chain has received a lot of media attention recently. The company broke the record for shipping the most mobile phones in a quarter, but unfair labor practices, environmental concerns, and supply chain changes have shed a more negative light on the mobile tech leader.

Apple Supplier Responsibility Progress Report

Transparency is the one area of supply chain management where Apple presently excels. The 2013 Apple Supplier Responsibility report compiles the results of 393 supplier factory audits that examined the conditions, treatment, and ages of workers, as well as the operational safety and business practices of the supplier. The annual report is part of Apple’s commitment to transparency. “We’re reporting extensively on the problems we’ve found in our supply chain. That includes the tough issues like underage labor, excessive work hours, and environmental violations…we believe candidness and transparency are critical to improving conditions for workers around the world,” states the report.

Fair Labor and Supplier Conduct

In 2012, Apple became the first company to invite the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to audit their supply chain. Apple also partnered with the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) and the Natural Resources Defence Council, among other organizations, and increased the number of audits conducted by 72% over the previous year. “In this area as in so many others, the company has a clear lead in innovation that few if any other companies can match,” says Linda Greer, health program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to the report, 95% of Apple’s suppliers comply with minimum age laws and 92% comply with 60-hour limits on work weeks, a big jump from 2011’s 38% compliance. “Apple recognises there is more to be done, and they are committed to building on the progress they’ve already made,” says Greer. Underaged labor is a major concern for Apple and affects other manufacturers as well. Completely eliminating poor working conditions is priority, according to senior vice president of operations, Jeff Williams. “I don’t know how long it will take to get there but that’s our goal,” says Williams.

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