Fri, Sep 02, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Apple faces Chinese pollution claims


Apple is defending itself against a fresh barrage of criticism from Chinese environmental activists over alleged pollution by the manufacturers who make its iconic iPhones, iPads and other products.

In a report issued on Wednesday, a group of nongovernmental organizations accused the technology giant of violating its own corporate responsibility standards by using suppliers it said its investigations found are violating the law and endangering public health by discharging heavy metals and other toxins.

Responding to the report, Apple said yesterday that it was committed to “driving the highest standards of social responsibility” in its supply chain.

“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,” it said.

In a letter to the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Beijing-based NGO that spearheaded the report, Apple said it took such concerns seriously but had found discrepancies in the document.

It also proposed a “private conference call” with the institute, which responded by asking that other sponsors of the report be included in any dialogue.

Policing supply chains is a headache for big brand name companies, given the countless scandals over labor, environmental, safety and quality problems brought on by outsourcing to myriad factories in China and elsewhere in the developing world.

The latest report explores in more detail findings of an earlier one that took Cupertino, California-based Apple and other big electronics makers to task for alleged violations of labor and environmental standards.

It says Apple is spreading pollution through its supply chain and names seven facilities owned by five separate suppliers for specific problems, mainly with disposal of hazardous materials such as copper, nickel and cyanide.

Staff at two of those factories near Shanghai, Kaedar Electronics (凱達電子) and Unimicron Technology (Kunshan) (昆山鼎鑫電子), said their managers were not available to comment yesterday.

The report also named Taiwan-owned Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團), also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), which assembles Apple’s iPhones and iPads in enormous factories in several mainland locations.

It said Foxconn’s factory in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan was emitting irritating gases resulting from metals surface processing, and authorities responsible for treating hazardous waste from its massive facility in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen had discharged pollutants exceeding legal limits.

Another suspected Apple supplier, Ibiden Electronics (Beijing) (北京揖斐電電子), a Japanese maker of printed wiring boards, was discharging several dozen tonnes a day of sludge containing hazardous chemicals, the report said.

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