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Apple agrees to China pollution audit

June 15, 2012

April 15, 2012 4:37 pm

By Chris Nuttall in San Francisco

Apple has agreed to a jointly monitored audit of pollution controls at a supplier's factory in China, in what activists see as a breakthrough in their efforts to persuade the world's most valuable company to address environmental concerns.
A maker of printed circuit boards for the Silicon Valley company is due to be inspected in the next few weeks by auditors, with Apple and the China-basedInstitute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) jointly monitoring their efforts.
Last month, Apple backed a report by the Fair Labor Association that recommended improvements in working conditions at three Foxconn factories in China where its products are made. Environmental issues now appear to be getting the same level of attention.
It has held lengthy talks in recent months with the IPE, a non-governmental organisation that has amassed a database of 97,000 environmental violations in China from official data.
Apple was the only one of 29 companies that failed to respond to a 2010 report by an IPE-led environmental coalition on hazardous wastes from suppliers causing pollution and health problems in China.
Ma Jun, IPE director, told the Financial Times that Apple’s attitude changed in September 2011,two weeks after a second report said pollution discharges were expanding and spreading in Apple’s supply chain.
Talks with the IPE began in Beijing and led to a series of other discussions culminating in a five-hour meeting at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters at the end of October.
“One Apple vice-president said that transparency was needed and I felt that was the moment they decided they wanted to change the way they were doing things,” he said.
Apple had been insisting earlier that details about its suppliers and its own audits of them were private.
“But it’s now become about validation, we keep telling them that you can’t just say that everything’s fine – we need proof.”
It met the IPE-led coalition in China in November and told it an outside specialist firm had been engaged to carry out inspections of environmental practices.
The IPE hopes that the first jointly monitored audit will act as a pilot for others to take place at 13 more factories where Apple has been carrying out its own environmental checks.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
As the world’s most valuable company, with a $564bn market capitalisation, activists hope its responsiveness to their concerns will also influence others to take action.
Ma Jun cited Taiwan’s HTC, Sweden’s Ericsson and Japan’s Canon as laggards in responding to pollution problems highlighted in their supply chains."
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