Apple shares annual Supplier Responsibility report, attributes increase in ‘core violations’ to amount of new partners

Apple today has released its 12th annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, detailing the work the company is doing in improving conditions at supplier facilities. Apple touts that 15 million supplier employees have now been trained on their rights, including 3 million just last year.

The report, however, also offers colors at some of the issues Apple still faces in its supply chain…

Apple audited 756 suppliers in 30 countries as part of its progress report, with 197 of those suppliers being brand new and audited for the first time. The company says that the number of “low performers” fell to 1 percent this year, down from 3 percent in 2016 and 14 percent in 2014.

Apple explains its scoring methodology:

A score of 90 to 100 is representative of a high performer. A score less than or equal to 59 is representative of a low performer. A score of 60 to 89 is representative of a medium performer

In terms of violations, Apple said that it found 44 “core violations” of labor rules, which is more than double the number it reported last year. Apple says these violations included 3 debt-bonded labor violations, 38 cases of working hour falsifications, 1 access restriction violation, and 2 underage labor violations.

In one case of debt-bonded labor, Apple says 700 contracted works from the Philippines were charged $1 million to work for a supplier. Apple forced the supplier to pay that money back to the workers:

In 2017, three suppliers were identified with foreign contract workers who were charged recruitment fees. In each case, the supplier was required to repay the recruitment fees in full to all impacted workers.

In one case, over 700 foreign contract workers were recruited from the Philippines to work for a supplier through a private employment agency. This resulted in excessive placement fees of more than US$1M.

As for those working hour falsification cases, 94 percent of suppliers reported compliance with Apple’s 60-hour work week requirement, down from 98 percent last year.

For its part, Apple largely attributes the spike in violations to the addition of so many new suppliers, which is certainly a viable excuse.

Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Progress Report also highlights the efforts the company is taking in protecting supplier employees. For instance, Apple COO Jeff Williams touts a new program that encourages women workers to focus on personal health:

“A new preventive health care curriculum is encouraging women to focus on their personal health, and hopefully share that knowledge with their families and communities. Our goal is to reach 1 million women by 2020. We know our work is never done and we’re committed to raising the bar every year across our supply chain.”

Apple also touts its Factory Line Leader Program that opens the door to full-time employment opportunities with vocational skills:

The Factory Line Leader Program bridges the gap between skills and employment by providing practical vocational skills and guaranteed internships with an Apple supplier, as well as long-term, full-time employment opportunities.

Reuters also notes that Apple released its conflict minerals report today, required by U.S. security regulators:

Apple company said that 16 smelters and refiners left its supply chain in 2017, 10 of which were dropped because they would not participate in a third-party audit of their practices. Six left of their own accord.

Apple also outlined new rules on student labor after a discovery last year that some Chinese students were working more than 11 hours a day assembling its iPhone X.

You can read Apple’s full Supplier Responsibility Progress Report right here.

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