In a report released on Wednesday, five Chinese non-governmental organisations said the US technology company was using suppliers with public records of environmental violations and taking “advantage of the loopholes in developing countries’ environmental management systems”.
The accusations escalate a standoff between Apple and Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a co-author of the report, which is threatening to damage Apple’s image. The groups have sought to persuade 29 big electronics brands over the past year to work with them on containing pollution in their supply chain, but singled out Apple as unresponsive.
Hours before the report was even published, Mr Ma was invited to start a dialogue on his allegations. Mr Ma said Apple told him some of the factories on his list were not the US company’s suppliers but gave him no details.
Although Apple does not directly manufacture anything itself it does not disclose, the names of its suppliers either. The Chinese environmental groups say they used public information and court documents to form a list of more than 20 Apple suppliers with environmental violations to their name.
Global electronics brands outsource all or part of their manufacturing and components, and activists say that, because of the intense competition between suppliers and lax government regulation, global brands are the most able to influence the behaviour of their suppliers.
China’s breakneck economic growth has been accompanied by widespread environmental degradation, and historically lax pollution rules have given Chinese manufacturers a cost advantage. However, tightening regulation by Beijing and growing environmental awareness – most recently on display in a 12,000-strong protest in Dalian earlier this month – are slowly changing the trend.
Apple, whose chief executive Steve Jobs resigned last week due to alleged ill health, has faced controversy over its suppliers in China before. In May, an explosion at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu producing the iPad 2 and all other Apple products killed three workers and injured more than a dozen more. In February, Apple said that 137 workers had been poisoned in 2009 by a chemical used to clean iPhone screens in a Wintek factory in Suzhou.
A number of other technology companies, including LG, SingTel, and Ericsson are also cited for being unresponsive and not taking action to correct the problems, but none fares as badly as Apple, which is criticised for being evasive and not responding to the NGOs’ concerns.
One of the health hazard cases the groups say Apple did not respond to was the poisoning of workers at Lianjian Technology, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Wintek, which produces touchscreen modules for Apple mobile devices.
According to the report, in the eastern Chinese city of Kunshan, air pollution from two electronics factories prompted villagers to send their children to faraway schools. Villagers also say they have noticed increased cancer rates since the two factories, Kaedar Electronics (Kunshan) and Unimicron Electronics, were established, according to the report. Analysts said that Unimicron and Pegatron, the parent company of Kaedar, were suppliers to Apple, but could not confirm whether Kaedar was.
Apple did not respond to questions seeking to confirm whether individual companies mentioned in the report were its suppliers or not.
Carolyn Wu, an Apple spokeswoman, replied with the classical Apple phrase whenever the environment is brought into question:
“Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base, we require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.”
In its latest supplier responsibility report, the company said 2010 audits had found that 80 facilities were not storing or handling hazardous chemicals properly. Apple’s report said the company required the non-compliant facilities to correct their hazardous waste handling, storage and disposal practices and to maintain documentation of these operations.
Kaedar declined to comment and Unimicron could not be reached.
Meanwhile, an undisclosed source has told us that Apple "invests" heavily behind closed doors in people with deep pockets working at Greenpeace, to gain favorable attention from the public and positive advertising. This news, dating back to 2007 still randomly appears among Greenpeace's top news although another branch of Greenpeace seems to be aware of Apples ecological irresponsibility, the article is buried down deep at the organization's servers and is not among the things you'd come across unless you knew exactly what to look for. Unfortunately it would appear the only "green" Apple was interested to in the past decade was the US dollar and how it could be moved to silence the right people or make them advertise the brand.
Via: BGR, Greenpeace