Apple's 2016 supplier sustainability report shows labor, environmental improvements

Apple requires its suppliers to meet specific human rights, health, and environmental standards each year.

apple 2016 supplier responsbility
Credit: Apple

Apple takes environmental sustainability seriously, but producing electronic devices that don’t cause harm to the earth or the people who make those devices requires the efforts of Apple’s suppliers, too. That’s why the company enforces standards for its partners, and according to Apple’s 11th annual supplier sustainability progress report, 2016 saw dramatic improvements.

Apple audited 705 suppliers and found 98 percent compliance with a 60-hour maximum work week, a new high. Apple removes partners from its supply chain who don’t meet its standards for labor and human rights, and in 2016 the company ceased working with three suppliers, BuzzFeed reported.

Apple also cut out 22 suppliers who were found to smelt conflict minerals. Smartphones use many minerals, including gold, tungsten, tantalum, and tin, that can be sourced from conflict zones where the mining and sale of those minerals contributes to human rights abuses. The U.S. is considering suspending regulations that require companies to disclose whether their products include such minerals, but Apple is committed to keeping conflict minerals out of its devices, regardless of the current administration’s policies.

“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,” Paula Pyers, Apple’s senior director of supply chain social responsibility, told BuzzFeed. “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.”

Apple is also expanding its sourcing to include cobalt.

The company also tripled the number of supplier sites included in its energy efficiency program, which it said reduced more than 150,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.

And despite changes in the American political climate, Apple will continue to focus on sustainability and responsibility—whether or not it’s required.

“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,” Pyers told BuzzFeed.

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