Apple criticized for China supply chain pollution

BEIJING Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:07pm EDT

The Apple logo is seen on the company's retail store in downtown San Francisco, California August 25, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The Apple logo is seen on the company's retail store in downtown San Francisco, California August 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese environmental groups accused Apple Inc of turning a blind eye as its suppliers pollute the country, the latest criticism of the technology company's environmental record.

Toxic discharges from "suspected Apple suppliers" have been encroaching on local communities and environments, a coalition of environmental organizations said on Wednesday in a 46-page report alleging efforts to conceal pollution.

Widespread environmental degradation has accompanied China's breakneck economic growth, and the government has been criticized for failing to take steps to curb pollution.

"The large volume of discharge in Apple's supply chain greatly endangers the public's health and safety," said the report, issued on the website of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (

The report alleges that 27 suspected Apple suppliers had severe pollution problems, from toxic gases to heavy metal sludge. In one case, the report said, a nearby village experienced a "phenomenal rise in cases of cancer."

Apple has decided to "take advantage of loopholes" in developing countries' environmental management systems to "grab super profits," it said.

Apple does not disclose who its suppliers are. The environmental groups said public documents and five months of research and field investigation led to the findings in the report.

"A large number of IT supplier violation records have already been publicized; however, Apple chooses not to face such information and continues to use these companies as suppliers. This can only be seen as a deliberate refusal of responsibility," the report said.

This is not the first time Apple has been targeted for environmental infractions and its secretive supply chain management in Chinese factories, where it assembles most of its products.

In January, several of the same non-governmental organizations issued a report alleging woeful environmental records for the iPad and iPhone maker's China-based contract manufacturers.

In February, workers at a Taiwanese-owned factory in eastern China making touch screens on contract for Apple aired their grievances over a chemical poisoning after using N-Hexane, a toxic solvent.

Apple says it maintains a rigorous auditing regime and all its suppliers are monitored and investigated regularly.

"Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base," Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu told Reuters.

"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," she said.

Apple is not alone in drawing criticism from environmental groups. Some of the world's leading brands rely on Chinese suppliers that pollute the country's environment with chemicals banned in Europe and elsewhere.

Many Western multinationals -- including toymaker Mattel Inc, which suffered a toxic lead paint scandal in 2007 -- have struggled to regulate product quality across scores of suppliers in knotted Chinese supply chains.

Environmental degradation has emerged as one of the most potent fault lines in Chinese society.

Beijing has repeatedly promised to clean up its stressed environment. But it often fails to match that rhetoric with the resources and political will to enforce its mandates, as local officials put growth, revenue and jobs ahead of environmental protection.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; editing by John Wallace)

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Comments (4)
Eideard wrote:
“Chinese environmental groups” composed almost wholly of Hong Kong residents funded via Dutch money laundering from Brits who still hope to regain Hong Kong.

If you feel like following the history of the managers of these NGOs.

Paying attention to these environment “activists” who haven’t the slightest connection to workers in Chinese factories – is parallel to those here in the States who believe that long term environmental interests are somehow best served by 16 anarchists in Washington state or perhaps PETA.


Aug 31, 2011 1:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheSadClown wrote:
@ Eideard – Are you saying that the particular groups mentioned in this article are suspect, or that environmentalist groups in China are generally suspect. And why would that matter either way if their report was factually accurate? Are you disputing that Apple’s suppliers are polluting the environment or that the Chinese care that their environment is being polluted?

Aug 31, 2011 10:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
woofda9 wrote:
I find it hard to be sympathetic with China’s environmental problems.

In fact, I hope they have more.

Until the people have been oppressed, poisoned and abused by thier government to the point where they will tolerate no more, the greed will continue unabated. To focus on the corporations who also profit, and the consumers who purchase and use these products distracts us from the reality that we are only continuing to support a COMMUNIST political system. If consumers were so concerned about this environmental damage, they could simply chose other products–China is an economic enemy, and they will continue to destroy thier country and people to control and dominate us economically. There is NO free market in China though, and we refuse to fight back economically. If we truly cared about thier environment, we would put tariffs on Chinese products to offset thier subsidization of economic warfare and create an economic balance.

The truth is we would rather see THEM destroy thier environment so WE can jabber on the latest disposable electronic junk we crave. When a president BOWS to them though, it looks like they are winning this war.

So, we now owe ungodly amounts of money to them, and you can be sure they will collect thier due.

We don’t need an ‘app’ for to pay that bill.

Aug 31, 2011 11:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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