On Tuesday Apple released its 2011 Supplier Responsibility progress report, put out annually to disclose information on Apple’s supply chain responsibility issues and its supplier adherence to Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct. According to Apple, its suppliers are required to commit to the code, which incorporates standards of compliance in the following areas: labor and human rights, health and safety, environmental impact, ethics, all with management commitment as the foundation.
This year, for the first time Apple tackled the issue of conflict minerals in its supply chain and released information regarding the presence of these minerals that goes beyond what any major electronics industry player has released thus far.
Apple, in conjunction with the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition, or EICC, has been able to map their supply chain down to the smelter. At this mineral processing level, they are able to get a clearer picture of which suppliers are using the 3T’s and gold and in turn, where they are getting those materials. Additionally, Apple is working with the EICC to audit the smelters of these ores in order to determine which facilities can be labeled “conflict free.” Once these smelters are given the conflict free label, Apple will then contractually obligate, through its Supplier Code of Conduct, that suppliers only source from smelters that comply with Apple and EICC standards.
In all, Apple found 287 suppliers using one or more of the 3T’s and gold in its products and 109 smelters used by these suppliers. As Apple and the EICC continue to identify and audit 3T and gold smelters and collect data throughout various supply chains, increased pressure will be applied on suppliers to identify the origin of ores in their materials. This will in turn create ripple effects down through the smelters to place pressure on the export, transport, sale, and extraction of conflict minerals in the Congo and the region, forcing those actors to increase the legitimacy of their trade. Apple’s release of this information is a positive step and a tremendous example that these types of measure can be taken by electronics companies to work toward creating conflict free products.
Photo: Tin ore (Sasha Lezhnev)