Human Rights Violations
As you might have seen on the news recently, factories linked to Apple like Foxconn in China have been accused of gross human rights violations. Children as young as 15 have been hired to work and many employees have been subjected to forced overtime. Apple employees are not supposed to work more than 60 hours per week, but many plants have ignored these internal regulations.
Foxconn has become one of the most visible manufacturing plants after 14 employees committed suicide throughout 2010. Four additional employees attempted to kill themselves by jumping off the roof of their facilities. These suicides are thought to have occurred as a result of poor working conditions and low pay, although ABC News and The Economist both reported that the Foxconn suicide rate is lower than the country’s overall suicide rate. However we should point out that some improvement has been made and this plant has since raised its wages by up to 25%.
Supply Chain Pollution
A 46 page report released by the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs claimed that 27 suspected Apple Plants were committing serious environmental crimes. Complaints include evidence of the release of heavy toxic gases; improper disposal of hazardous waste containing copper, nickel and cyanide; factory emissions that far exceed legal limits, and more.
Fair Labor Association
Following continued complaints about environmental and human rights abuses, Apple approached the Fair Labor Association to do an independent audit of their manufacturer’s facilities. FLA’s team of 30 will interview 35,000 employees. Bloomberg News reported that FLA Chief Executive Officer Auret van Heerden has already found “tons of issues” that need to be addressed, but a more complete report has yet to be issued.
Attempts at Sustainability
While Apple’s manufacturing partners have been less than transparent, Apple has taken important strides to improve their environmental record in the United States. We recently reported that the company’s Maiden data center is not only the first LEED Platinum facility of its kind, but it is notable that it boasts a massive solar array that will produce 42 million kWh of clean energy each year. A back up fuel cell (likely provided by Bloom Energy) will produce an additional 5MW annually.
Despite Apple’s efforts at transparency and sustainability, its stocks rose by 24% this year while employees in China continue to endure suspect working conditions. Not until the FLA issues their final audit will it be clear whether or not the iPad3 and all other Apple products are tainted… perhaps it behooves our readers to wait until then?