Apple | What’s Behind Their Environmental Footprint?

Posted by brandon.woo & filed under Environment.

Esther Frid holds "El Atardecer de la Vida," a book she wrote about the stories of seven senior Latin American women living in Canada

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After a report in August that accused Apple of having suppliers that harmed the environment, Apple met up with environmental groups to clarify what they were doing to address this issue.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), told the BBC’s Chinese service that Apple has set goals and is working towards them. “They promised to increase assessment of environmental impact and management when they look for new suppliers in the future,” Jun said.

Apple did not inform the IPE which suppliers it uses, but said that it would work to ensure that its partners are more environmentally-friendly. (Whether or not they will be successful, however, is another story.)

Carolyn Wu, Apple’s Beijing-based spokeswoman, told the BBC that Apple performs regular inspections of its suppliers, with checks at 127 being completed last year. Wu went on further to say that it has its partners resolve violations within 90 days. “Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply chain,” Wu said.

“We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.”

Sounds like a rather thorough system, no?

So thorough that it makes you wonder how, even with its regular inspections of its suppliers, Apple still has suppliers that don’t conform to environmental standards. (Unless these suppliers are like those restaurants that try to cover all potential health hazards when a food inspector is on his/her way.)

This is not the only issue I find with Wu’s statements. If Apple’s is so “commmitted to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout [their] supply chain” and require their suppliers to “treat workers with dignity and respect,” then what does Apple make of the worker abuse that happens in companies like Foxconn?

To Apple’s defense, “highest” is a subjective word, and from its dealings with the worker abuse cases surrounding Foxconn, perhaps Apple’s solution is just ignorance. That, and the fact that requiring suppliers to “treat workers with dignity and respect” doesn’t mean that Apple will ensure that its suppliers do that.

Don’t you just love the things you can do with language? As Apple has demonstrated, loopholes, even to your own rules, can be convenient.

Brandon Woo is a happy high school student in Vancouver, BC. In working with Schema, he hopes to educate others about current events and learn more about the world around him too. If you have any suggestions about something that Brandon might want to write about, send him an email, and he’ll get back to you.

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