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Apple Increases Supplier Audits by 72 Percent in 2012, Cuts Off Those that Don’t Comply

Apple said it upped its audits of suppliers (mainly in Asia) by 72 percent from 2011 to 2012, and even cut ties with suppliers that didn’t follow the code of conduct.

For all of 2012, Apple conducted a total of 393 audits — an increase of 72 percent compared to 2011. Apple said it has even started auditing its smaller component makers in addition to the larger ones like Foxconn.

During these audits, Apple found two main issues: underage workers and excessive overtime.

In one particular case, Apple discovered that Asian supplier Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co Ltd had 74 issues concerning underage workers. Apple terminated the business relationship.

In addition, Apple found that an employment agency was forging documents to allow underage workers to gain employment at its supplier’s factories. Apple reported the agency to local authorities.

After auditing small to large suppliers in 2012, Apple found that 95 percent had complied with the code of conduct regarding underage labor.

According to Apple, limiting work weeks to a maximum of 60 hours was another challenge. About 92 percent of suppliers complied, while Apple corrected the remaining 8 percent.

Other issues were discovered in 2012 as well, such as bonded labor agencies that help immigrant workers find jobs (but take a significant amount of their pay in return) and discriminatory behavior against women. To correct this, Apple forced the bonded labor agencies to reimburse $6.4 million in excess foreign contract worker fees for 2012. It also stopped the discrimination against women, such as practices where women must take pregnancy tests before gaining employment.

“At Apple, we care just as much about how our products are made as we do about how they’re designed,” said Apple in a statement. “We know people have very high expectations of us. We have even higher expectations of ourselves.”

Apple said it is focusing on student interns for 2013, saying that it will make sure suppliers don’t abuse the internship program.

Apple’s supplier problems stem from many Foxconn-related issues over the past few years, such as employee suicides, explosions from the buildup of aluminum dust used to polish devices, low wages, crowded dorms and long hours.

A year ago, a report from The New York Times blamed Apple for Foxconn’s list of issues, saying that Apple wasn’t doing enough about it. From there, Apple voluntarily joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) for random audits.

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