Apple released it 2010 Progress Report on Supplier Sustainability yesterday –two days ahead of its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday.
As I’m sure you’re aware, Apple’s manufacturing business is located primarily overseas, and the company has been dogged with labor problems ever since allegations of sub-par working conditions in China first surfaced in 2006. Since then, Apple has implemented training programs and increased factory audits to help ensure that its suppliers are adhering to the company’s Code of Conduct.
The new 24-page progress report offers details about Apple’s proactive approach to working with suppliers to protect worker rights and improve factory conditions. It includes an outline of the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct, a summary of 2009 audits, plus details about violations and corrective actions to address them.
According to the new report, Apple does see positive progress –but also recognizes that much more work needs to be done to make sure suppliers meet expectations. The company says it will continue to improve and expand its supplier responsibility program, which includes not only supplier audits, but also:
- a “Train-the-Trainer” program –workshops to train human resources staff on topics such as occupational health and safety, work-related injury prevention, management obligations, and workers’ rights. These employees can then develop management systems to sustain effective social responsibility training.
- supplier employee education and development –a flexible, computer-based learning curriculum in classrooms to support the educational aspiration of workers at supplier facilities.
- establishment of policies and cross-industry collaborations to protect foreign contract workers.
The report states that Apple will terminate business when suppliers have repeat core violations or their practices suggest that they do not take the Apple Code of Conduct seriously.
That’s good to hear because now that offshoring and outsourcing are standard fare on the global corporate agenda, it’s clear that companies like Apple are in a unique position to change the status quo in China and in other emerging economies. When companies work to improve standards in their supply chains and engage policymakers and other key stakeholders, they are helping to develop safe, rights-based conditions for all workers –and ultimately, that’s beneficial to both workers and the businesses that hire them.