Apple Takes Heat from Chinese NGOs of Supply Chain Pollution

Apple Takes Heat from Chinese NGOs of Supply Chain Pollution

Apple has again fallen foul of green groups after a coalition of Chinese NGOs yesterday released a major new report accusing the technology giant of failing to tackle concerns about alleged pollution and workers' rights abuses at the factories of some of its suppliers.

The report from the Green Choice Initiative, a coalition backed by 36 Chinese environmental and labour groups, ranked 29 multinational technology firms on their responses to inquiries about their Chinese supply chain, placing Apple in joint last place.

"Apple has broken its promise on three aspects of supply-chain social responsibilities," said the report. "On Apple's supply chain, some workers were poisoned and disabled, neighbourhoods and communities were polluted while there were severe infringement of workers' rights, interest and dignity."

The groups accused Apple of "dodging" legitimate questions about the activities of its suppliers.

In particular, the report highlighted an incident where 49 workers at a factory owned by Taiwan-based Wintek were hospitalised after being exposed to the chemical cleaning agent n-hexane.

The factory was said to have worked on Apple products, but the report claims that while Nokia and Motorola, who also worked with Wintek, responded to questions about their relationship with the supplier, Apple simply issued a statement claiming it "will never disclose any information about suppliers".

The report also noted that a number of companies believed to be Apple suppliers have breached environmental regulations in recent years.

"Behind their stylish image, Apple products have a side many do not know about -- pollution and poison," the group said in a statement. "This side is hidden deep within the company's secretive supply chain."

"Apple's lack of responsiveness eventually made us quite shocked," she told the news agency. "It's the whole complacency that it doesn't have to be accountable to the NGOs, to the communities, even to the poisoned workers."

The report also criticised Nokia, LG, SingTel, Sony and Ericsson for failing to provide adequate response to inquiries, while commending HP, BT, Alcatel-Lucent, Vodafone, Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp and Hitachi for taking a more transparent approach.

A spokeswoman for Apple rejected the claims made in the report, telling news agency AFP that the company "has a vigorous auditing programme that investigates suppliers and other parts of the business chain. We audit throughout.... We actually have had an extensive auditing programme since 2006."

This article originally appeared on BusinessGreen.com, and is reprinted with permission.

Photo CC-licensed by djenan.