Apple's latest supplier report details labor issues

In an auditing report on the factories where its products are made, Apple says its findings include cases of underage workers and environmental violations. It also says it has joined a third-party auditing group.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
A shot of a worker from Apple's annual report.
A shot of a worker from Apple's annual report. The company says it found that its suppliers stuck to its maximum 60-hour work week just 38 percent of the time. Apple

Apple today took steps to add more transparency to the way it makes its products, including the human labor involved.

The company published its latest progress report (PDF) detailing its auditing practices, while saying that it increased the number of audits by 80 percent compared to what it did in 2010.

Apple said that it addressed the issue of underage labor, and managed to get cases of it "down significantly." However the company said that there were still six active cases, and 13 past cases of it taking place at its component suppliers, but not in the suppliers where its products were put together. The company added that it has educated more than a million of the employees in its supply chain about their rights.

Among the other findings in Apple's annual report are that its suppliers stuck to its maximum 60-hour work week just 38 percent of the time. The company also found "some violations" of its compliance code for environmental standards while examining 14 facilities, resulting in 58 facilities getting their air emissions systems treated.

Alongside the report, Apple became the first company to join the Fair Labor Association, which will act as an independent auditor in Apple's supply chain.

"We're extremely proud to be the first technology company admitted to the FLA," said Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations in a statement. "Last year we performed more than 200 audits at our supplier's facilities around the world. With the benefit of the FLA's experience and expertise, we will continue to drive improvements for workers and provide even greater transparency into our supply chain."

That supply chain also became more visible in the form of a two-page list of suppliers (PDF) Apple uses to make its products. In it, the company noted the companies are responsible for "97 percent of Apple's procurement expenditures for materials, manufacturing, and assembly of Apple's products worldwide."

The updated report comes amid more controversy at Foxconn, one of Apple's key manufacturing partners. The company made news this month when workers threatened to commit mass-suicide in response to what they alleged to be poor working conditions. Earlier this week Foxconn said it settled the dispute among some workers, but that 45 workers had left the company. In recent years, more than a dozen Foxconn workers have committed suicide at its facilities.

The report is the latest in a series that have been published following scrutiny of Apple's product manufacturing. Previous reports have focused on underage workers, working conditions, and disposal of hazardous waste.