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Apple audit finds fewer supplier problems, touts green successes

The number of "core violations" dropped after doubling last year. Meanwhile, more of Apple's products are made with zero waste.

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Apple's latest audit report for 2018 brought a lot of shine back to the company's supply chain.

The iPhone maker said it uncovered 27 "core violations" of labor rules, according to its 13th annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, or a little more than half the 44 it reported last year. The report included 24 cases of falsified working hours and two cases of debt-bonded labor. Perhaps the best news for Apple: It didn't find any serious health and safety violations, instead mostly identifying poor health screenings and lack of appropriate permits.

Meanwhile, the company said it hit a new environmental achievement. Last year, it announced the iPhone was manufactured with a zero waste certification, and this year it added the iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePod to that program. (The company's also increased its recycling programs, with new iPhone disassembly robots to speed up the process.)

Overall, that spelled good news for Apple as it assessed the 770 suppliers it manages across 30 countries. The company also audited 279 mineral smelters and refineries. Overall, Apple said it audited more than 90 percent of all the people it buys parts and materials from last year.

"We are constantly raising the bar for ourselves and our suppliers, because we are committed to the people who make our products possible, as well as the planet we all share," Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "Our goal has always been not just to drive progress in our supply chain, but to drive meaningful changes across the industry."

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Apple's supplier responsibility reports for years have chronicled its stated attempts to clean up issues in its massive supply chain. That was particularly important a decade ago, when employees' mental health, safety and mistreatment were front-page news around the world.

Now, Apple says, its publicly released supplier audits offer a blueprint for other companies to ensure humane treatment of workers and increase environmental standards.

A greener Apple

The company said one of its goals this year is to increase education of workers. It said 17.3 million people were trained on workers' rights since 2007. In that same time, 3.6 million people received advanced skills training. And in 2018, 1,500 people earned a college degree. 

One of the company's new education programs is in app development. The first class produced 42 apps, which Apple said were everything from workplace tools to games.

On environmental goals, Apple said it's diverted 1 million tons of waste from landfills in China and cut enough emissions in 2018 to remove the equivalent of 100,000 cars from the roads.

On an instance of underage labor, the company said the child was a nearly 16-year-old employee who got the job using false identification. After the violation was detected, that child was transported home and enrolled in school while still continuing to receive pay from the supplier.

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