Labour & Human Rights

Every worker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

A celebration at the opening ceremony for the SEED iPad e-learning program for factory workers in Shenzhen, China.

We’re striving to eliminate unethical hiring and excessive work hours for the people who build our products. Apple is also dedicated to the ethical sourcing of minerals like tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, so we can improve conditions for workers at the deepest levels of our supply chain.

Labour and Human Rights Highlights from Our 2015 Report

Achieved 92 per cent compliance with our 60-hour maximum working week.

More than doubled the number of verified smelters in our supply chain to 135.

Recouped US$3.96 million in excessive recruitment fees for foreign contract workers.

Implementing ethical hiring practices.

Selected groups of workers — including student, juvenile, dispatch and foreign workers — are at greater risk of being targeted by unscrupulous labour brokers and employers. This is fundamentally unacceptable behaviour. By engaging early with our business teams and suppliers, we’re better able to implement fair hiring practices across the supply chain. And to anticipate and address potential violations before and during employment.

An auditor interviews a worker at a factory in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Ending underage labour.

Underage labour is never tolerated in our supply chain. If we find it, we put a stop to it. And suppliers found violating our zero-tolerance policy are put on probation. Our Underage Labour Remediation Program requires that any supplier found hiring underage workers fund the worker’s safe return home. Suppliers also have to fully finance the worker’s education at a school chosen by the worker and his or her family, continue to pay the worker’s wages and offer the worker a job when he or she reaches the legal age. Of more than 1.6 million workers covered in 633 audits in 2014, 16 cases of underage labour were discovered at six facilities — and all were successfully remediated. This means that underage labour now accounts for 0.001 per cent of the total work population audited in our supply chain. Although this number is low, even one case of underage labour is unacceptable. So we won’t stop until it’s eliminated from our supply chain entirely.

Case Study
Impact in action: Ran’s story.

Born and raised in Henan Province, China, 16-year-old Ran has always had a passion for computers. “I like assembling and dismantling hardware,” Ran says. “I have a computer at home and have always tried to figure out how it works.” But Ran’s love of technology had to take a back seat to supporting his family. At just 15 years old, Ran borrowed an ID to bypass a nearby factory’s underage labour screening process so he could get a job. In October 2013, one month shy of his 16th birthday, an Apple auditor found him working at the factory. Immediate action was taken, and Ran was enrolled in Apple’s Underage Labour Remediation Program.

Ran at his school in Henan Province.
Being able to continue my education is a dream come true. I’d like to find a job in the IT industry after. Maybe I’ll become a network engineer or start my own company.
Ran, 16 years old

The program required the supplier to fully fund Ran’s safe return home, help finance his education and continue paying the wages Ran had been earning. The program also worked to improve the factory’s hiring system to help prevent underage labour.

Because Ran was using his factory wages to support his family, he had reservations about leaving his job.

“When auditors found me, I was really nervous and worried, because I thought I would be fired and would have to find another job to help support my family,” Ran recalls. “But when I was told that the remediation program would provide financial support and help me go back to school, I was still nervous but also very happy.”

As part of the six-month remediation, Ran was assigned a local case worker who made sure all program requirements were being met. He was enrolled in a three-year computer course — including two years of classroom training and a one-year internship — at a local technical school.

There he learned basic computer skills and software programs like Adobe Photoshop and Ulead VideoStudio. Ran also participated in computer design and sports competitions, and joined the student union.

“When we first met Ran, he was very shy,” says Ran’s caseworker Eileen. “Now he has made many friends, improved his education, and has grown more confident and outgoing.”

Ran is proving to be an excellent student as well. In fact, he is earning solid grades and is being considered to represent his school at a competition in China this year.

For his part, Ran’s father couldn’t be more proud of his son’s achievements. “My son has done so well in his studies,” says Ran’s father. “I am extremely proud of him and the hardships he’s overcome. And I’m so grateful he’s able to go to school and pursue his dreams.”

Protecting student workers from exploitation.

After their primary education, many students in China attend vocational schools. These institutions often require students to participate in fieldwork or internships as part of the program. But a lack of oversight has created an opportunity for some factory managers to skirt local laws. To better protect these young people, we require that suppliers who hire student interns help them meet their educational goals, align their internships with future job goals and ensure that work doesn’t interfere with their schooling.

To further this effort, Apple continued its partnership with Stanford University’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP) and Dell Inc. Together we evaluated the education and internship performance of over 12,000 students at more than 130 schools. We also developed an educational tool for managers to evaluate schools on their own. And through our multistakeholder engagement with Stanford’s REAP, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Henan Department of Education, we are creating the first vocational school credentials system in China, so schools can better meet our high bar for student interns.

In 2014, our ramp monitoring program helped make sure that the percentage of students entering the workplace didn’t exceed our limit of 20 per cent per facility. In fact, the percentage of students in our supply chain is the lowest it’s ever been, between 1 to 2 per cent. We also monitored student working hours, reviewed job types and made sure internships were strictly voluntary.

A worker at a smelter in Belitung, Indonesia, sifts though tin.
Even as recently as five years ago, few consumer goods companies understood the complex issues related to the extraction of raw materials. It’s remarkable, and necessary, that Apple is taking a systematic approach to understand the problems at the root of its global supply chain. We hope this will set a precedent for real action within and around mining areas.
Andreas Manhart
Senior Researcher, Oeko Institute
  • Key Partners and Stakeholders
  • Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI)
  • Conflict-Free Tin Initiative (CFTI)
  • Diamond Development Initiative
  • Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC)
  • Enough Project
  • IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative’s Indonesian Tin Working Group
  • ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative
  • KEMET’s Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability
  • London Bullion Market Association (LBMA)
  • Pact
  • Partnership Africa Canada (PAC)
  • Public-Private Alliance (PPA)
  • Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)
  • Solutions for Hope
  • Tungsten Industry—Conflict Minerals Council (TI—CMC)