Apple shares annual Supplier Responsibility report with new suppliers causing elevated numbers of “core infractions”

Apple’s 12th Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, which details the working conditions at its various supplier facilities, has been released today. At first glance, it appears violations are on the rise, but there is also a simple explanation.

The report includes audits of 756 suppliers from 30 different countries. Apple says 15 million supplier employees have been trained on their rights, with over 3 million just last year.

Apple did find 44 “core violations” when performing these audits, which is more than double its last year number. Those violations were made up of various infractions including 38 cases of working hour falsifications, 3 debt-bonded labor violations, 2 underage workers and a single case of access restriction violation.

In one of the cases involving debt-bonded labor, 700 contracted workers from the Philippines were charged $1 million to work for a specific supplier. Apple stepped in and forced the supplier to repay to the workers in entirety.

In 2017, three suppliers were identified with foreign contract workers who were charged recruitment fees. In each case, the supplier was required to repay the recruitment fees in full to all impacted workers.

In one case, over 700 foreign contract workers were recruited from the Philippines to work for a supplier through a private employment agency. This resulted in excessive placement fees of more than US$1M.

The number of new core violations is troubling at first glance, however, Apple attributes it to the large number of new suppliers that have been added in the past year. Since many had not been audited in the past, this number should undoubtedly drop significantly next year.

In other good news, the number of “low performers” fell to 1%, down from 3% in the 2016 report and 14% in 2014. Here is how Apple explains its methodology:

A score of 90 to 100 is representative of a high performer. A score less than or equal to 59 is representative of a low performer. A score of 60 to 89 is representative of a medium performer.

Apple is also touting the efforts the company makes in protecting supplier employees. This includes a new initiative encouraging women workers to focus on personal health, and the Factory Line Leader Program.

On the women’s health program:

“A new preventive health care curriculum is encouraging women to focus on their personal health, and hopefully share that knowledge with their families and communities. Our goal is to reach 1 million women by 2020. We know our work is never done and we’re committed to raising the bar every year across our supply chain.”

And on the Factory Line Leader Program:

The Factory Line Leader Program bridges the gap between skills and employment by providing practical vocational skills and guaranteed internships with an Apple supplier, as well as long-term, full-time employment opportunities.

Read the Supplier Responsibility Progress Report on Apple’s website.