iPhone maker Apple accused of lax safety and environmental standards in China

Apple Inc. ranked last out of 29 global technology companies in terms of responsiveness and transparency to health and environmental concerns in China, according to the Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs (IPE), a Beijing-based nonprofit group. Apple refused to confirm suspected polluters were among its suppliers and avoided taking responsibility for environmental problems related to its products, according to IPE Director Ma Jun.

iPhone maker Apple accused of lax safety and environmental standards in China
Click here for the full report by the Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs (IPE).


Apple Ranked Last by China Environment Group for Transparency

 

By Tim Culpan, Bloomberg.com, 20 Jan 20, 2011

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Apple Inc. ranked last out of 29 global technology companies in terms of responsiveness and transparency to health and environmental concerns in China, according to a Beijing-based nonprofit group.

BT Group Plc and Hewlett-Packard Co. were among the highest ranked companies, Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs (IPE)

said in a phone interview today. Apple refused to confirm suspected polluters were among its suppliers and avoided taking responsibility for environmental problems related to its products, he said.

“Apple has had an extensive supplier auditing program since 2006 and we have lots of information available through our website,” said Jill Tan, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Apple. Tan said she read the IPE report.

Among the examples cited in the report is Wintek Corp. which in 2009 is alleged to have used poisonous chemicals in the production of screens for Apple that resulted in workers being hospitalized for nerve damage. In a regulatory filing in May, Wintek said it stopped using the chemical, N-Hexane, and all workers were getting adequate treatment. Apple has not acknowledged Wintek as a supplier, Ma said.

All of the workers involved in that case have recovered fully, said Jay Huang, a spokesman for Taichung, Taiwan-based Wintek. He declined to say whether Apple is a current or past customer. Apple’s Tan declined to say if Wintek is a supplier, or comment on specific cases.

BT and HP ranked highly in IPE’s list of technology companies because they have responded to environmental problems and worked with suppliers to ensure better compliance, Ma said.

“We originally thought that Apple, as a corporate citizen, would take a leadership role, but now we feel they ended up as the most obstructive,” Ma said. IPE today released “The Other Side of Apple” a report that outlines findings from a group of 36 non-governmental organizations into environmental and health practices among technology companies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Culpan in Taipei at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at [email protected]

 

Apple accused of neglecting work safety

By Liu Linlin, Global Times, 20 January 20 2011

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Dozens of Chinese environmental groups are accusing Apple of neglecting work safety standards, of labor abuses and of polluting the environment.

The result of this corporate malfeasance, they say, is that at least 200 manufacturing workers have become sick among Apple's subcontractors in eastern China.

A total of 36 non-governmental organizations, led by the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) and Friends of Nature, have dubbed Apple a "sweatshop brand," as "the company has based its mass production on its subcontractors, without proper protections in the workplace," according to a joint report that is due out today but was made available early to the Global Times.

The NGOs conducted a nine-month study on working conditions at seven of Apple's subcontractors in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, and in Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

Ma Jun, director of the IPE, told the Global Times that they gathered statements from factory workers who said they were manufacturing components for Apple products, including at Lianjian Technology Co in Suzhou.

"We started to write to Apple in April about pollution problems by its subcontractors, but have barely received a response. Until recently, Apple asked us to provide evidence to prove Lianjian is one of Apple's suppliers," Ma said, criticizing Apple for being so secretive about its list of suppliers.

"If Apple does not disclose the information of its suppliers, nor responds actively to any query about its suppliers' bad behavior, then it is impossible to have any public supervision over its supply chain," Ma added.

An e-mail to Apple China spokeswoman Carolyn Wu Wednesday seeking comments received a response that the questions had been forwarded to a relevant department, but no further e-mails or calls were received by the company as of early this morning.

Apple says on its official website that it is "committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility wherever our products are made. We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes."

A slew of suicides and suicide attempts at a complex of Apple's major contractor, Foxconn, made global headlines last year, with workers in the facilities claiming they were treated badly.

However, Foxconn responded by opening its doors to reporters to survey the facilities, saying the employees' claims were greatly exaggerated.


Lianjian controversy

 

Taiwan-headquartered Lianjian Technology, one of the alleged subcontractors, is a major contributor to the world's production of small and medium-sized flat screens.

The company was accused of neglecting workers' health by using

N-Hexane to clean touch screens from Apple products instead of using ethyl alcohol.

The toxic cleaning material works more efficiently than ethyl alcohol, but it can penetrate human skin and the respiratory system and impede movement by damaging the nervous system.

Lianjian, which was not reachable for comment Wednesday, was exposed for N-Hexane poisoning, and more than 2,000 workers protested in January of last year.

The Suzhou Administration of Work Safety later confirmed to China News that 47 employees were poisoned by the toxic material and had received treatment.

The touch-screen subcontractor was fined 80,000 yuan ($12,153) by local environmental protection authorities for the illegal disposal of dangerous industrial waste two years ago.

Jia Jingchuan, 26, who started working for Lianjian in August 2007, was diagnosed with nerve damage in August 2009 after one of his coworkers was found paralyzed.

They were not informed of the toxic nature of the material and had worked in a bad ventilation environment with simple protection of mouth covers and a pair of thin rubber gloves.

After being hospitalized for nine months, Jia, along with 200 other affected coworkers, received 90,000 yuan in compensation from the company and social security fund.

"The compensation can't match the suffering we've received. Although we appear physically intact, we have lost our basic skills to survive," Jia told the Global Times Wednesday.

"The US always trumpets human rights, and Apple highlights its green technology and social responsibility in front of the media. Therefore I want to ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs to think of the hardworking young Chinese workers for a second," Jia said, claiming that he saw an Apple technician sent to Lianjian for inspections every three months when he worked there.

Dong Baohua, a Shanghai-based labor lawyer, told the Global Times that there is no regulation in Chinese labor laws that mandates that contractors must take joint liability for compensating workers who suffer from occupational diseases in their supply chain if the suppliers and contractors are independent and legal employers.

"These workers could seek help from global organizations that monitor working conditions, but the process is lengthy and costly," he said.

What might give the suffering workers a slice of hope is that amendments to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases will be taken into consideration by national legislators this year.

That may, to some extent, help solve problems that arise when diagnosing occupational injuries.

Song Shengxia and Zhu Shanshan contributed to this story

 

 

Apple criticised for lax green standards in China

Reporting by James Pomfret and Kelvin Soh; Editing by Daniel Magnowski

Reuters, 20 janaury 2011

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HONG KONG | Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:30am EST

Jan 20 (Reuters) - Chinese green groups on Thursday accused iPhone maker Apple of failing to properly oversee its Chinese suppliers, leading to poor environmental and safety standards, and dozens of poisoned factory workers.

Apple, which announced blockbuster profits and a dazzling outlook for iPhone and iPad sales earlier this week, continues to be dogged by accusations of aggressive pricing and secretive supply chain management in Chinese factories where they now assemble most of their products.

"We've found that Apple isn't honouring its commitment in ensuring its supply chain's work safety and environmental responsibility and giving dignity and respect to the workers," said Ma Jun of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE). The IPE, in conjunction with other green groups, has published a detailed report on what it says is malpractice in Apple's supply chain.

"(Apple) only care about the price and quality (of their products) and not the environmental and social responsibility issues. In some ways they drive the suppliers to cut corners to win their contracts," Ma said.

Apple said it had a rigorous auditing regime and all its suppliers were monitored and investigated regularly.

"Our supplier responsibility reports document the progress of our extensive auditing programme since 2006," an Apple spokeswoman said in a brief emailed statement.


FOXCONN SUICIDES

Last year, Apple's main China supplier Foxconn was hit by over a dozen worker suicides that critics blamed on harsh factory conditions and a militaristic culture. Apple's CEO Steve Jobs has denied the allegations, saying Foxconn is not a sweatshop.

Many Western multinationals -- including toymaker Mattel which suffered a toxic lead paint scandal in 2007 -- have struggled to regulate product quality across scores of suppliers in tangled Chinese supply chains, but the IPE report said Apple's standards fell far short of its status as a leading global brand.

"It's not easy to control (the supply chain) but peer brands are doing a lot more (than Apple) to deal with this," said Ma.

The nine-month survey "The other face of Apple" found that at least 49 factory workers in eastern China working in factories assembling products for Apple had fallen ill.

Lianjian Technology in the eastern city of Suzhou, which the green group claims is one of Apple's major touchscreen suppliers, was accused of using N-Hexane, a toxic solvent, to clean screens, leading to at least 47 factory workers being poisoned.

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