Apple Ranked as ‘Clear Leader’ in its Efforts to Source Conflict-Free Minerals From Supply Chain

Apple has been designated the "clear leader" in its methods of supporting a conflict-free minerals trade throughout its supply chain. The title was awarded to the company in a report published by the Enough Project, called the 2017 Conflict Minerals Company Rankings, in which Apple sits at the #1 spot. Rounding out the top 5 spots are Alphabet/Google at #2, HP at #3, Microsoft at #4, and Intel at #5.

The new Conflict Minerals Company Rankings look at 20 of the world's largest companies in two of the industries that the Enough Project says "consume the most" tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold: consumer electronics and jewelry retail. These minerals are referred to as conflict minerals because they're most often related to being sourced within war-torn countries that mine the minerals with little to no respect for workers' rights.

Chart via the Enough Project

The Enough Project gathered these top 20 companies and awarded points to each based on the policies and practices that they enact regarding responsible mineral sourcing, with the lowest on the list designated as companies most in need of "considerable and urgent need for more action." In total, the companies were ranked based on four core categories:
- Conducting Conflict Minerals Sourcing Due Diligence and Reporting
- Developing a Conflict-Free Minerals Trade and Sourcing Conflict-Free Minerals from Congo, Particularly Gold
- Supporting and Improving Livelihoods for Artisanal Mining Communities in Eastern Congo
- Conflict-Free Minerals Advocacy
In its full report, Apple is placed in the "Outstanding Company Efforts" section, which represents the companies "going above and beyond to get more directly at the heart of maintaining robust due diligence practices and sourcing conflict-free minerals from Congo." Specifically, Apple is the only company to receive full credits for identifying and following up with supply chain incidents reported to it by suppliers and other sources. Apple has "clearly demonstrated its commitment" to scouring for red flags related to these reports and taking action by dropping suppliers and others in its supply chain that turn out to be noncompliant with its standards.

After developing its Risk Readiness Assessment program in order to help identify conflict minerals sourcing in its supply chain, among other risk-related sourcing factors, Apple partnered with the Responsible Business Alliance in order to make this program widely accessible to other companies. According to the Enough Project, this put Apple above and beyond all other companies ranked on the list.
Apple not only has found better ways of addressing incidents within its own supply chain, but it has also helped develop shared centralized platforms for risk assessment that other companies can use. This extra effort contributes to the overall strengthening of conflict minerals supply chain due diligence.
The Enough Project's report follow a separate study published by Amnesty International earlier this week, which described Apple as the industry leader in responsible cobalt sourcing. That report said Apple has taken "adequate" action in terms of sourcing conflict-free minerals, earning a top ranking alongside Samsung in the same category.

Apple annually discusses this part of the supply chain in its Supplier Responsibility Reports, which typically come out around February and March. This year's report highlighted cobalt supplier audits in the Congo, its "highest ever" work hour compliance, and discussed the success of Apple's Supplier Education Program. These reports are intended to show the strides that Apple takes to improve the work lives of its device manufacturing employees, who work to create products including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and more.

To see more of the Enough Project's 2017 Conflict Minerals Company Rankings, visit the project's website here.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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NYU Student Goes Undercover at Pegatron Factory, Offers Inside Look at iPhone Production

New York University graduate student Dejian Zeng spent last summer working in a Pegatron factory manufacturing the iPhone 6s and 7 as part of a summer project, where he got a first hand look at what factory life is like for a worker in China.

Zeng did a extensive, detailed interview with Business Insider, where he shared his experience and offered up an inside glimpse at how factories like Pegatron work.


When he first arrived at the factory, Zeng's job was in final assembly. His sole task was to put a sticker on the back of the iPhone 6s and add a screw, over and over again, a process that he said was "very boring."

Employees at Pegatron are not allowed to bring in electronic devices, so there's no entertainment like music. Strict security measures are in place, including metal detectors, preventing outside devices from entering the factory.

While Zeng started out assembling the iPhone 6s, the factory switched over to the iPhone 7 in August ahead of its September launch, providing an interesting look at how security ramps up when an unreleased device is being manufactured.

According to Zeng, once the iPhone 7 was in trial production, the sensitivity of the metal detectors was ramped up, with no metal, including the metal of underwire bras, allowed through. Two security checks were also required, and new assembly line infrastructure had to be built. Apple employees were also on hand to keep an eye out for issues.
When we were producing the iPhone 7, they have Apple staff there every single day to monitor the process because it's a new product they want to see if there are new problems.

The management of the factory becomes very, very careful. It needs to be very, very clean. All the case holders need to be in the exact position of where they should be. The process changed a lot because it used to be just an assembly line. They made it a clean room, like they want to keep the dust out.
Zeng earned the equivalent of $450 for a month of work, including overtime pay, for working up to 12 hours per day. Because of unpaid breaks, he was only paid for 10.5 hours. He was also provided with housing in a dorm with multiple other employees, but he had to pay for meals. At $450 per month, Zeng did not earn anywhere near enough to purchase one of the devices he was assembling, and he said most of his coworkers used Chinese smartphones from Oppo or similar brands rather than an iPhone.

Still, he said some factory workers considered producing the unreleased iPhone "as a very cool thing," and everyone knew they were working on an upcoming device. Factory jobs, he said, weren't hated, but weren't liked, and turnover rates were "very high." "It's very normal for workers to leave after two weeks or a month," he said.
We just consider it a job that can give us money. Nobody enjoys the process because the purpose of getting to work is waiting to get out.

The only thing that we're thinking about is really money, money, money. I need to get some money from my family, I need to support my life, support my kids.
On the subject of safety training, Zeng said Pegatron was "very careful" and the training was thorough. Workers only get two days of training, though, with most of the focus on safety, and they're also required to download a special app designed by Apple that includes additional training documents and information on overtime. Pegatron, he said, did seem to keep an eye out for safety issues and other problems like underage workers.

According to an Apple spokesperson that spoke to Business Insider, Apple has employees on the ground at the Pegatron facility every day and performs regular audits to make sure employees aren't working more than 60 hours. Apple also pointed out that wages at Pegatron have increased 50 percent over the last five years and are higher than the Shanghai minimum wage.

Zeng, who originally visited the factory in anticipation of a worker strike due to reduced wages and the elimination of bonuses, says his experience at the factory has affirmed that his plan for a career in human rights advocacy is the right choice.

Zeng's full interview with Business Insider, which goes into much more detail on working conditions, employee routines, living quarters, food, overtime pay, safety procedures, and more, is well worth checking out.


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Apple’s 2017 Supplier Responsibility Report Highlights Cobalt Supplier Audits, 98% Work Hour Compliance

Apple today released its 2017 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, outlining progress that the company has made in its supply chain by highlighting its "highest ever" work hour compliance, advocating the success of Apple's Supplier Education Program, and celebrating more than 2.4 million workers who were trained on their rights last year. Apple releases such progress reports each year as a transparent move to show the strides it takes to improve the work lives of its device manufacturing employees, who work to create products including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and more.

The company said that over the past year it audited 705 total suppliers and discovered that compliance with its 60-hour maximum work week mandate has reached 98 percent, increasing from 97 percent last year. Throughout the year, Apple tripled the number of suppliers taking part in its Energy Efficiency program, leading to the reduction of over 150,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, "the equivalent of taking 31,000 cars off the road for a year."


Apple also said that its successes in supplier responsibility included waste reduction, Clean Water initiatives, and more "responsible sourcing efforts" to expand beyond so-called "conflict minerals" to include cobalt for the first time.
Apple’s responsible sourcing efforts expanded beyond conflict minerals to include cobalt for the first time. For the second year in a row, 100% of Apple’s tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold (3TG) smelters and refiners are participating in independent third-party audits. Apple has also partnered with numerous NGOs to drive positive change on the ground, including Pact who are working to provide essential health and safety training to artisanal mining, and are building programs to help children stay in school.
An article by BuzzFeed today highlights Apple's expansion beyond conflict minerals, which are referred to in that way due to their source within war-torn countries that mine the minerals -- tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold -- with little to no respect for workers' rights. Apple's transparency on the subject comes at a time when the Trump administration is said to be considering suspending legislation that previously required companies to disclose whether or not their products contained conflict minerals.

According to Apple's senior director of supply chain social responsibility, Paula Pyers, the company removed three total suppliers (of the 705 audited) for failing to meet its various labor and human rights, environmental standards, and health and safety codes. Conflict mineral suppliers were more harshly cracked down upon, with 22 total suppliers tied to the controversial practice removed from Apple's supply chain over the past year.
“We’ve been really clear with our suppliers that, notwithstanding any changes to regulations — or deregulation, if you will — we’ll continue to run the same program we’ve been running for the last six years,” Pyers said. “We will continue to drive third-party audit programs. We’ll continue to dig really deep, and stand up accountability and our incident report system. Candidly, we don’t plan any change in that which we are doing.”
The company's transparency in 2017 has stretched to include cobalt mining for the first time, including a list of every cobalt supplier in its supply chain, all of which are facing third-party audits. Cobalt is not officially considered a conflict mineral, but recent investigations into the cobalt supply chain potentially violating child labor laws has led to tech companies joining up to form the Responsible Cobalt Initiative to fight the human rights abuses.

Pyers told BuzzFeed that, even in the face of lax legislation potentially passed by the White House, Apple will "continue to do what we're doing" in regards to its annual Supplier Responsibility reports and audits. "We'll continue to call for collective action because we truly believe, whether it's regulated or self-regulated, this is the way business should be run, and the way we'll continue to run our business."

Read more about Apple's Supplier Responsibility initiatives here.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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