Apple's 2017 Supplier Responsibility Report Highlights Cobalt Supplier Audits, 98% Work Hour Compliance

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Mar 27, 2017.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple today released its 2017 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, outlining progress that the company has made in its supply chain by highlighting its "highest ever" work hour compliance, advocating the success of Apple's Supplier Education Program, and celebrating more than 2.4 million workers who were trained on their rights last year. Apple releases such progress reports each year as a transparent move to show the strides it takes to improve the work lives of its device manufacturing employees, who work to create products including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and more.

    The company said that over the past year it audited 705 total suppliers and discovered that compliance with its 60-hour maximum work week mandate has reached 98 percent, increasing from 97 percent last year. Throughout the year, Apple tripled the number of suppliers taking part in its Energy Efficiency program, leading to the reduction of over 150,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, "the equivalent of taking 31,000 cars off the road for a year."


    Apple also said that its successes in supplier responsibility included waste reduction, Clean Water initiatives, and more "responsible sourcing efforts" to expand beyond so-called "conflict minerals" to include cobalt for the first time.
    An article by BuzzFeed today highlights Apple's expansion beyond conflict minerals, which are referred to in that way due to their source within war-torn countries that mine the minerals -- tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold -- with little to no respect for workers' rights. Apple's transparency on the subject comes at a time when the Trump administration is said to be considering suspending legislation that previously required companies to disclose whether or not their products contained conflict minerals.

    According to Apple's senior director of supply chain social responsibility, Paula Pyers, the company removed three total suppliers (of the 705 audited) for failing to meet its various labor and human rights, environmental standards, and health and safety codes. Conflict mineral suppliers were more harshly cracked down upon, with 22 total suppliers tied to the controversial practice removed from Apple's supply chain over the past year.
    The company's transparency in 2017 has stretched to include cobalt mining for the first time, including a list of every cobalt supplier in its supply chain, all of which are facing third-party audits. Cobalt is not officially considered a conflict mineral, but recent investigations into the cobalt supply chain potentially violating child labor laws has led to tech companies joining up to form the Responsible Cobalt Initiative to fight the human rights abuses.

    Pyers told BuzzFeed that, even in the face of lax legislation potentially passed by the White House, Apple will "continue to do what we're doing" in regards to its annual Supplier Responsibility reports and audits. "We'll continue to call for collective action because we truly believe, whether it's regulated or self-regulated, this is the way business should be run, and the way we'll continue to run our business."

    Read more about Apple's Supplier Responsibility initiatives here.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: Apple's 2017 Supplier Responsibility Report Highlights Cobalt Supplier Audits, 98% Work Hour Compliance
  2. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    If I remember correctly, it's the legislature that passes legislation. But I'll applaud Apple's efforts anyway.
  3. DeepIn2U macrumors 603


    May 30, 2002
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    I also applaud this as the company I work for has become the largest if not one of the largest cobalt suppliers - due to having code of conduct concerns with a supplier and just bought them out to set things right the moment they found out about it!
  4. Sill macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    For the folks who get bent out of shape when the government doesn't step in and regulate something, and for those people who say "the private sector can't be trusted to regulate itself", this is a wonderful story that proves them wrong.

    This is exactly how this is supposed to work - the feds step back, private industry steps up. Here's hoping this continues and spreads into all corners of the economy. ​
  5. G4-power macrumors 6502


    May 29, 2004
    Vaasa, Finland
    I agree that this is a wonderful story. However, one positive cannot prove anything wrong. Sadly, if this is news, it also means that it is not the norm. Indeed we can hope that this spreads, but there is no assurance.

    In this case, the lack of governmental overwatch on workers' rights in the countries where Apples suppliers are located has lead to these problems. Apple as a highly visible company has a PR-incentive to make things right. We can as consumers push the companies we buy from to regulate these issues themselves. But not all industries have these incentives. Where the private industry is not self-regulating, is where the governments should be involved.
  6. Sill, Mar 28, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2017

    Sill macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    I realize I'm getting into parsing and semantics here, but I have to say that it does indeed prove the free market naysayers wrong. If they're overarching opinion is that there is no way private industry can be trusted to regulate itself, and we have concrete proof that in this particular case the government has stepped back and a private company is stepping up, then they have been proven wrong. I think its also amazing that not only has Apple stepped up to regulate itself, they are also going the extra mile and writing compliance goals into their contracts with other companies. This will have far reaching, positive effects. Apple has proven the anarcho-capitalist mantra that self interest is a better driver than big government.

    I think there's a lot more than PR involved here. Even bad PR can still be good PR if spun properly. Microsoft made an art form of that in the 90's, and of course, governments do it daily. But solid evidence that a company is doing something harmful, something that hurts people, will in turn hurt sales. That goes against their self-interest and the interest of shareholders. As the people who organized boycotts decades ago learned, "hit 'em in their pocketbook". Now we don't even need boycotts - in most cases they're counterproductive since an organized boycott can empower a contrarian purchase movement - we just need information spread and the market makes the choice.

    The problem with "where the governments should be involved" is that it isn't as cut and dried as that statement makes it out to be. There are always winners and losers to every government action, and sometimes that loss includes human lives.

    In a voluntary action such as what Apple has undertaken, the only losers are those who refuse to modify their corporate behavior. If those companies want to contract with the largest company on earth, they are free to modify their behavior to meet Apple's requirements. Yet they are also free to ignore it without being fined or worse. If they take that route and yet still want to continue to survive they can always lower their prices and seek contracts elsewhere, which is also a net positive for the economy and one that doesn't involve mega-fines that evaporate into the government ether without directly or indirectly benefitting a single private citizen.

    In a forced-compliance action, such as what every government uses, companies face increasing regulation costs, fines, and possible jail time or loss of life. At no point does the public see a net positive benefit from any of this. Increased regulation means more agents, more administrative costs, higher taxes. Fines and compliance costs are passed on to the end user. I hope I don't need to explain why jail time for non-violent crime, or people accidentally wounded or killed during enforcement actions is a bad thing.

    I personally watched some of these events, as several of my corporate customers were the focus of regulatory actions that somehow turned into SWAT raids. At no point were the people at these companies ever suspected of violent crime, nor was there any chance that any of the charges brought could have resulted in an armed standoff, yet heavily armed "heroes" in tactical gear stormed their premises and held everyone captive while records, computers, and other materials were examined and/or confiscated. In one of the events, the people were told nothing was found yet their business would be kept on hold while the agents continued to search - "and we WILL find something - unless they decided they wanted to settle the charges then and there. In another case, two principals in the company were told they had a choice: continue to fight the charges and be kept in court indefinitely, bankrupting their company and their family, or settle for a fine and a few months jail time each. They did nothing wrong, and the entire action was due to a disgruntled customer who decided to get some revenge, yet they realized that it was in their best interests to cave in. They did time and paid millions in fines, which was still a fraction of what they would have lost taking the high road. And what did any of this benefit the citizenry? These were just a couple of cases I personally saw. I couldn't possibly be the only one out there who has this kind of experience. How many other people are pushed against the wall like this? How many other companies risk bankruptcy through regulatory overreach? How many other peoples jobs are in danger from this?

    So, I am thankful that the feds are rolling back their non-Constitutional activities, and that the private sector is stepping up, which is the way it always should have been. I sincerely hope that Cook is a conservationist, and doesn't reveal himself to be a radical ecologist. The first seeks to integrate man into his environment in a way that works to mutual advantage, or what we call "sustainability". The second seeks to eliminate man as much as possible and has a few tenets that should alarm people. I also hope he doesn't go full SJW on companies and push them into changing local mores to suit his beliefs.
  7. G4-power macrumors 6502


    May 29, 2004
    Vaasa, Finland
    Indeed, I completely agree with that. I tried to think this more generally than proving free market naysayers wrong. Apple is however a forerunner and not all companies are willing or have the pressure from their customers and other stakeholders to regulate themselves.

    Of course there's more to it. Basically still, usually the interests of the shareholders and the customers are the interests of the company (especially a publicly traded one). Some companies however do more than what would be necessary to keep the shareholders happy, even just because the management thinks it's morally right.

    There is one loser, if this is left up to just voluntary actions, the workers. Sure, the free market will weed out in time the ugliest companies who abuse their workforce. I think however that some overwatch is necessary, be it governmental or otherwise. For the free market to work correctly in these situations, everyone involved should be informed of the consequences of their decisions. When you go deep enough into the supply chain, it's nearly impossible to track whether the product you are buying has been produced in for example ethical working conditions. In that sense I think broader rules on for example working conditions, that apply to a whole country or an industry will protect the workers rights better, as it will cover more people than by companies voluntarily choosing to so.

    I understand that extremes are bad in both cases. Governmental overreach can lead to many bad things, as well as complete neglect. There will always be people and companies that abuse the nature, their workers and so on, that can't be stopped by just not buying from them. Someone equally evil will buy and so forth.

    But I think mostly our viewpoints differ here due to our cultural and historical differences. Where I come from, companies are generally law-abiding and moral, but many things are still very much governmentally regulated. The government is not seen as a third party, but rather as a body that represents the people as a whole. We pay quite high taxes mostly happily, as the benefits are seen in health care and education etc. We don't have SWAT teams raiding companies etc. But I do realise that not every government has got the good of the people on their mind and every country is different. I would suggest some balance between letting the free market sorting itself out and the government regulating the worst offences would be the best case.

    Anyhow, I'd say great job from Apple. In this case, the supplier companies nor their host countries probably wouldn't have reached this point without the pressure from Apple.

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6 March 27, 2017