Apple: Our Supplies (Largely) Don’t Come From War Zones

Illustration for article titled Apple: Our Supplies (Largely) Don’t Come From War Zones

Apple has just published its supplier responsibility report, which audits its contract workers who produce and assemble hardware in factories outside the US.

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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.

Getting better, then, but still far from perfect—especially given that suicide attempts are still a very real phenomenon amongst Foxconn employees. Apple: must try harder. [Apple via New York Times]

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DISCUSSION

As much as it's nice to blame Apple because they're popular, I think most of the accountability falls on Foxconn. Any of the large numbers of companies they build products for can mandate worker rights but at the end of the day it's Foxconn that has to make sure they consistently follow them. It's worth noting that a lot of this criticism is only directed at Apple because of their popularity and as a company they have been really good at trying to put in place good standards in their products, stores, employees, and labor practices. The same can't be said for other large electronics companies, clothing companies ( the worst offenders ) , or medical instrument suppliers (made in squallered back alley's in india then exported and stamped with made in country x ) ... Many of the other companies are worse offenders and in the decades they have been around haven't made any effort to clean up their supply chains.