Apple has released its annual supplier responsibility report, a document in which it details business practices such as treatment of workers, environmental compliance, and responsible practices.

Like all large, publicly traded companies Apple is under constant pressure to participate in programmes that improve the quality of life not only for its employees and workers, but also for those who are affected by the manufacturing of its products. In the past – and Apple is not the only tech manufacturer dealing with this issue – it’s had to deal with claims that workers in factories live in squalor and have demoralising environments. It’s also had to deal with issues like certain rare minerals being sourced from conflict regions.

With its latest report, the company lays it all out, and it’s been verified by third-party auditors.

Apple details the four conflict minerals – tin, tantalum, gold, and tungsten – and says that while it does use those, as they’re necessary for many parts of the electronics in its devices, its sources are from areas where there is no conflict. It defines conflict minerals as those where “their extraction may finance or benefit armed groups that are associated with human rights violations”.

In its mission to make sure that there are fair and safe working conditions for everyone in its supply chain, it has identified the official suppliers of those minerals in the countries where they are mined. Apple has also worked closely with the suppliers there, and instituted as Conflict-Free Smelter Program for auditing compliance. Doing so, it’s also actively supporting economic development in those regions, rather than excluding them from the global economy. It’s also released a list of refiners that have been confirmed as conflict-free suppliers.

Concerns about its workforce have also been addressed. A few years ago Apple faced criticism for the working conditions at Foxconn, one of its Chinese factory partners. It’s made sure that working conditions have improved there, and at its other partner facilities – changes that have affected more than 1-million workers. Measures include limiting work weeks to just 60 hours, protecting students from exploitation, and reformed policies for migrant workers.

Workers have also been given educational opportunities, to further their careers. Apple’s doubled its SEED (supplier employee education development) programme from nine to 18 sites. More than 280 000 workers took part in free courses provided by the programme.

Overall, with its billions in the bank Apple has used some of that money for good. Obviously it’s not the only tech company under such pressures but with a huge public report and interactive website it’s definitely dispelling any rumours that might surround the way it does business. Effectively, even though they comply, the gauntlet’s been thrown down in front of Samsung, Intel, and other hardware giants.


Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.