We set high standards, then help our suppliers meet them.

Third-party auditors conduct wastewater testing at a factory in Kunshan, China.

The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct.

Our Supplier Code of Conduct outlines our high standards for creating safer working conditions, treating workers fairly and using environmentally responsible practices. It’s one of the strictest in our industry and often requires practices above and beyond local law. To comply with the Code of Conduct, all suppliers must meet the stringent requirements in our Supplier Responsibility Standards. This document details the standards that we expect our suppliers to meet regardless of local laws, company policies, cultural norms and business practices around the world.

An Apple engineer observes internal component work in Shanghai, China.

Every audit is an opportunity to improve.

We use audits to build the capabilities of our suppliers. So we’ve developed a four-stage process to help them comply with our Code of Conduct.

Audit Prioritisation

We use a risk-based approach to decide which suppliers to audit. We consider issues like the social, environmental, health and safety, and business risks of a facility. Then we prioritise audits based on geographic risk, commodity risk, planned spending and previous audit performance.

We look at concerns brought to us by external stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), by internal Apple teams, and through anonymous complaint systems that encourage workers to report workplace violations and retaliations to us. Each request is assessed according to its urgency. If the issue is life-threatening, we dispatch Apple teams immediately. Otherwise, our teams are usually onsite within 24 hours.

21 unannounced audits performed
250 requests closed for environment, safety and labour cases
25K follow-up interviews conducted to ensure no retaliation against workers

Onsite Audit

Every audit is led by Apple and supported by local third-party experts who have been trained on our auditing protocols. Together we interview workers, review hundreds of payroll documents, physically assess the health and safety conditions of the facilities, and inspect environmental conditions inside and out. Each facility is graded on more than 500 data points corresponding to the Code of Conduct.

While evaluating the facilities, we’re also seeking out core violations — issues for which Apple has zero tolerance. These include cases of underage workers or involuntary labour, document falsification, intimidation of or retaliation against workers participating in audits, working conditions that put lives at risk, and significant environmental impacts. Any breach we find is escalated to senior management at Apple and the supplier to be addressed immediately. In some cases these violations are also reported to local authorities. Non-compliant suppliers are then placed on probation until they successfully complete their next audit. Core violations negatively affect the suppliers’ business relationships with Apple and can lead to termination. To date, we’ve ended contracts with 20 suppliers.

Annual Apple Audits
Year Total audits
2007 39
2008 83
2009 102
2010 127
2011 188
2012 298
2013 451
2014 633
2015 640

Addressing Issues

Non-compliant suppliers must submit a Corrective Action Plan within two weeks of the audit, outlining how they will fix the problems we found. Our team of verification specialists then work with suppliers, checking in at 30-, 60- and 90-day intervals to make sure they’re on track. Any delayed progress is escalated to senior management.

Verifying Improvement

After 120 days, third-party auditors visit the facility to confirm that everything in the original Corrective Action Plan was implemented according to our standards. If not, we schedule a second verification audit within 30 days.

When suppliers require extra support to comply with the Code of Conduct, we send our team of experts as part of our partnership programme. We tailor our approach to help the facility improve through refining business practices and management systems relating to labour, human rights, environment, and health and safety.

By working with our suppliers instead of only policing them, we have improved their compliance significantly.

Case Study

Improving factory conditions in Liuyang.

Lens, a factory in Liuyang, China, produces cover glass for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

When Apple first audited the factory in 2010, auditors discovered 57 labour and human rights, environment, and health and safety violations. They included uncontrolled working hours, age discrimination during recruiting, and chemical and hazardous waste management that didn’t meet Apple’s standards. Instead of penalising the factory, we partnered closely with management to help improve conditions for their 35,000 workers. Nikko Liao, an auditor from Apple, was sent to change things from the inside.

Nikko, an Apple auditor, meets the factory’s HR team about human rights findings.

Nikko focused on establishing a responsibility team and management system to implement new policies, procedures and tools to drive internal improvement. These included new ways of controlling working hours, a revised internal audit procedure, an updated recruiting policy, and improved labelling and storage of chemicals.

As a result, the Lens team addressed all the violations from the 2010 report, improved their audit score by 29 per cent, and continues to work towards their long-term goals of embedding responsible practices within their working culture.

Nikko interviews a worker to ensure proper health and safety procedures.

Progress Report

Download this year’s progress report, read a letter from Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and view reports from previous years. Learn more