Apple has just published its supplier responsibility report, which audits its contract workers who produce and assemble hardware in factories outside the US.
Perhaps most interestingly, Apple explains in the report that it has confirmed that none of its suppliers use tantalum—a metal that is regularly used in mobile electronics—from areas engaged in warfare. The fact that iPads, iPhones and Macs are free of the conflict-zone version of the material is a small victory for the grass-roots organizations trying to keep it out of technology supply chains.
In particular, there's been a recent focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo, where high-powered warlords have been profiting from stripping and selling ores containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold from its resource-rich lands. Apple has confirmed, though, that all the tantalum smelters used to create its products are conflict-free, with supplies coming from other, more peaceful areas.
The same can't be said of of tin, tungsten and gold yet, though—but apparently Apple is pushing to ensure sources of those materials are also verified as conflict-free. One step at a time, I guess.
Elsewhere in the report, Apple explains that its much criticized manufacturing workforce conditions are on the up. This year, 95 percent of its contractors guaranteed work weeks of 60 hours or fewer, up from 92 percent last year. There's also been a push to educate such workers about their rights, with courses and training supplied to about 1.5 million workers.