In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Apple’s 2019 Supplier Responsibility Report, the most recent available, for information on how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain.
SUPPLY CHAIN POLICY (Rudimentary)
Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct, dated January 1st 2020 was viewed. The document contained clauses covering forced labour, child labour, anti-discrimination and freedom of association which were considered adequate. It also contained clauses relating to working hours and wages. The latter was considered inadequate as it only required the payment of legal minimum wages, not living wages. The former was considered inadequate because it only stated that a workweek should be restricted to 60 hours and workers shall have at least one day off every seven days, except in emergencies or unusual situations. The Code of Conduct stated “This Code applies to Apple suppliers and their subsidiaries, affiliates, and subcontractors”.
Apple’s Supply Chain Policy was considered to be rudimentary.
STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT (Rudimentary)
Apple was a member of the Responsible Business Alliance. However, as an industry-only body (with no membership from NGOs or trade unions), this was not considered to be a multi-stakeholder initiative.
Apple stated that it worked with third party auditers but it did not idenfity them. It was thus considered that there was no real evidence of systematic third party involvement with auditing or managing the supply chain except with regard to specific commodities like tin.
Apple stated: "Our Code and Standards include non-retaliation protections and feedback channels, including grievance mechanisms at supplier sites. External third-party anonymous hotlines and the ability to contact the Apple Supplier Responsibility team directly at any time and in any language ensure that these requirements are upheld." On this basis, the company was considered to have an an adequate complaints process.
Overall, Apple was considered to have a rudimentary approach to stakeholder engagement.
AUDITING AND REPORTING (rudimentary)
The report stated: that in 2019 "a total of 1,142 assessments across 49 countries were completed." There was a breakdown of results and details of consequences for non-compliance - corrective action plans and ultimately removal of suppliers - the report stated "Since 2009 we have removed 145 suppliers, including 22 manufacturing supplier facilities and 123 smelters and refiners." The report detailed one finding of debt-bonded labour and one finding of child labour. It stated "In 2019, of the 12 Core Violations found in the labor and human rights category, 10 were related to working hours violations."
However, there was neither a clear schedule for audits nor a clear committing to auditing the whole supply chain. No mention of the costs of audits could be found. Apple was considered to have a rudimentary approach to auditing and reporting overall.
DIFFICULT ISSUES (Rudimentary)
Apple did engage in some surprise audits. The report stated: "In 2019, we conducted 70 unannounced assessments and investigations where the supplier facility was provided no advance notice". Apple further stated that "In 2019, Apple interviewed more than 52,000 supplier employees as part of supplier assessments and made over 31,000 follow-up calls to participating workers to verify that they did not experience retaliation as a result of being interviewed during the assessment." These were considered a very rudimentary attempt to deal with audit fraud.
There was some discussion of particularly vulnerable migrant workers, and Apple stated that it was "mapping the higher-risk migration corridors for foreign contract workers" and was making some attempt to interview them. There was, however, no mention of other difficult issues such as banned trade unions, outworkers, or living wages. Overall Apple was held to have a rudimentary approach to difficult issues.
Overall, Apple received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for supply chain management overall and lost half a mark in this category.