HONG KONG, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Chinese green groups on Thursday accused iPhone maker Apple of failing to properly oversee its Chinese suppliers, leading to poor environmental and safety standards, and dozens of poisoned factory workers.
Apple, which announced blockbuster profits and a dazzling outlook for iPhone and iPad sales earlier this week, continues to be dogged by accusations of aggressive pricing and secretive supply chain management in Chinese factories where they now assemble most of their products.
“We’ve found that Apple isn’t honouring its commitment in ensuring its supply chain’s work safety and environmental responsibility and giving dignity and respect to the workers,” said Ma Jun of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE). The IPE, in conjunction with other green groups, has published a detailed report on what it says is malpractice in Apple’s supply chain.
“(Apple) only care about the price and quality (of their products) and not the environmental and social responsibility issues. In some ways they drive the suppliers to cut corners to win their contracts,” Ma said.
Apple said it had a rigorous auditing regime and all its suppliers were monitored and investigated regularly.
“Our supplier responsibility reports document the progress of our extensive auditing programme since 2006,” an Apple spokeswoman said in a brief emailed statement.
Last year, Apple’s main China supplier Foxconn was hit by over a dozen worker suicides that critics blamed on harsh factory conditions and a militaristic culture. Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs has denied the allegations, saying Foxconn is not a sweatshop.
Many Western multinationals — including toymaker Mattel which suffered a toxic lead paint scandal in 2007 — have struggled to regulate product quality across scores of suppliers in tangled Chinese supply chains, but the IPE report said Apple’s standards fell far short of its status as a leading global brand.
“It’s not easy to control (the supply chain) but peer brands are doing a lot more (than Apple) to deal with this,” said Ma.
The nine-month survey “The other face of Apple” found that at least 49 factory workers in eastern China working in factories assembling products for Apple had fallen ill.
Lianjian Technology in the eastern city of Suzhou, which the green group claims is one of Apple’s major touchscreen suppliers, was accused of using N-Hexane, a toxic solvent, to clean screens, leading to at least 47 factory workers being poisoned.
“Apple’s lack of responsiveness eventually made us quite shocked. It’s the whole complacency that it doesn’t have to be accountable to the NGOs, to the communities, even to the poisoned workers,” Ma told Reuters.
(Reporting by James Pomfret and Kelvin Soh; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)