The Dark Side of Apple’s Supply Chain

As surprising as it may seem (or not) there are problems with Apple’s suppliers in China, namely that many are not exactly environmentally friendly citizens.

A coalition of environmental organizations cited “pollution and poisoning” problems in Apple’s China supply chain in two reports on the “Other Side of Apple.” In the second report, this group—Friends of Nature, Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, Envirofriends and the Green Stone Environmental Action Network—says that Apple “has systematically failed to respond to all queries regarding their supply chain environmental violations.”

Among the allegations in the report:

– Meiko Electronics plant in Guangzhou, a suspected PCB supplier to Apple Inc., was found in violation of environmental rules 10 times within a few months, after what the report calls schemes “to conceal their environmental violations.”

– Meiko’s plant in Wuhan was found to be discharging heavy metals directly into Nantaizi Lake; copper content in a sediment sample was found to be 56 to 193 times of that in the sediment in other lakes.

– Two companies in Kunshan, Kaedar Electronics and Unimicron Electronics “have been subject to repeated complaints from local residents due to their emissions discharges.” A nearby village has experienced a “phenomenal rise” in cases of cancer, according to the report.

– Foxconn Electronics, a huge supplier for many electronics companies (and working conditions that literally drive employees to suicide), “is involved in serious pollution resulting from its metal surface processing,” the report says. Local residents have filed numerous complaints against Foxconn’s irritant gases. “The local government has called on the company to control its pollutant discharge many times, but the pollution that severely affects the quality of life for the residents has yet to be resolved.”

The investigation also found that the volume of hazardous waste produced by suspected Apple suppliers is really large and is not disposed of properly. “Each day, Ibiden Electronics Beijing Company produces several dozen tons of hazardous waste containing heavy metals, copper, nickel and cyanide.” Even though there are strict disclosure requirements for waste transport, manifests in many cases they are left blank and “the exact whereabouts of the heavy metal sludge was not clear.”

In all the coalition has uncovered nearly 30 suspected Apple suppliers that have environmental problems.

The report says there is no way to know if Apple is aware of the problems or if it has pushed its suppliers to resolve the issues.

Despite Apple’s “seemingly rigorous audits, pollution is still expanding and spreading along with the supply chain.”

As for an Apple response, the report quotes that Apple said, “It is our long-term policy not to disclose supplier information.”

The report continues that a large number of IT supplier violation records have been publicized, while Apple “chooses not to face such information and continues to use these companies as suppliers.”

Is Apple just another huge company that cuts environmental corners? If even a portion of the coalition’s charges are accurate, Apple should respond forthrightly, instead of using evasive tactics that include the “policy” cloak of supplier confidentiality.

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

2 responses

  1. Unfortunately, I’m not really surprised. I get the general feeling that pretty much everything made in China has got to be terrible for the earth. Every time I look at a new Apple product, I do wonder how many resources (energy) was put into its creation and production, and how much pollution became of it… Apple should talk about it. it’s pretty lame! But WalMart should talk about it even more. Biggest. Retailer. Ever. NONE of the big companies talk about this stuff AT ALL and it simply sucks! Can we just please, as a world, be forthright that pollution is actually bad, global warming is real, and then go from there? that would be a good start. Shame on Apple for playing the trade-secrets card though, this is troubling, indeed.

  2. The suicides at these Chinese factories are not caused by poor working conditions or employee harassment. Where true sweatshop conditions exist, such as the garment industry in New York, there are no suicides. At France Telecom there have been 60 suicides or attempts over the last several years. The work week in France is 35 hours.

    Pictures and video used to illustrate these stories, including France Telecom, show it’s a little known problem discovered when it cause mental breaks for office workers forty years ago. The cubicle was designed to stop it in offices by 1968.

    Workers who use full mental investment must have Cubicle Level Protection if there is detectable movement in peripheral vision. Foxconn put electronics assembly line workers too close together without a peripheral vision blocking scheme between them,(Cubicle Level Protection). A pair of safety glasses with wide temple arms, opaque or blacked out, would stop these suicides. That should cost pennies in China.

    The same suicides happen at U.S. Colleges each semester. Administrations have refused to examine Subliminal Distraction as causation. If they prove this is the cause of these suicides they also prove the school is responsible for them. Schools do not provide Cubicle Level Protection where is it needed nor do they warn students.

    This problem is course material in psychology, engineering, and design. It is believed to cause only a harmless temporary episode of confusion and only happen in incorrectly designed business offices. When it happened to my wife she had a full psychotic break, heard voices, and had crying episodes from paranoid delusional beliefs about situations she psychotically hallucinated.

    Pictures are available from links at the top of my Home page. Anyone can be a victim but engineering, computer science, and design students will have more opportunities for exposure. There were three student suicides at Caltech last summer within a few weeks. One was 48 hours from graduation. Georgia Tech had two disappearance suicides. http://VisionAndPsychosis.Net

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