If companies want to do business with us, they must uphold the highest commitment to human rights.

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Workers relax during a break at a factory in Shanghai, China.

We’re working to eradicate unethical hiring and exploitation of workers — even when local laws permit such practices. We’re continuing our efforts to end excessive working hours. And we’re driving responsible sourcing of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.

Highlights from our 2014 Report

Tracked weekly working
hours for over one million workers throughout our supply chain.

Drove our suppliers to achieve an average of 95 per cent compliance with our standard maximum 60-hour working week.

Launched a project to drive accountability for the vocational schools that place student interns in our supplier facilities.

Conducted 33 specialised audits at facilities employing migrant workers who may be at risk of unfair treatment.

Required suppliers to reimburse US$3.9 million in excess foreign contract worker fees.

Confirmed in January 2014 that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third-party auditors.

Released a list of the smelters and refiners whose tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold we use so it’s clear which ones have been verified as conflict-free.

View all 2014 highlights

Ending excessive working hours.

Working weeks exceeding 60 hours have been a persistent problem for the electronics industry, and reducing excessive overtime remains a priority for Apple. We limit working weeks to 60 hours except in unusual circumstances. And all overtime must be absolutely voluntary. To help protect the people who make our products from working excessive hours, we track working hours weekly for over one million people in our supply chain — a programme we started in 2011.

While working hours can be difficult for Apple and our suppliers to predict, we require suppliers to notify us in advance when they anticipate that production plans might cause high working hours. That way, we can get ahead of problems and work with both the supplier and Apple’s procurement teams to find the best solutions.

As a result of Apple’s and our suppliers’ efforts, our suppliers achieved an average of 95 per cent compliance across all working weeks in 2013. The average hours worked per week was under 50 for all employees. In 2013, we also tracked employees working at least 40 hours, and found they worked an average of 54 hours per week. Over 97 per cent of all working weeks met our requirement of at least one day of rest every seven days.

Suppliers averaged 95 per cent compliance with our 60-hour working week in 2013, a 3 per cent increase from 2012.

Protecting student workers from exploitation.

School leavers in China have several choices: they can enter the workforce, pursue further education or enrol in a vocational (trade) school. It’s common for vocational schools to require students to complete internships as part of the curriculum. But these schools often fail to perform the necessary due diligence to match students with appropriate internship opportunities or provide them with adequate support.

At their best, these schools provide students with useful on‑the‑job training and economic opportunities. At their worst, the schools can act more like labour brokers, recruiting workers simply to fill factory demand with little regard for educational relevance.

We believe it’s important for students to have high-quality internship opportunities. But the lack of available data about these schools makes it difficult for students, suppliers and electronics companies to assess their quality. So in 2013, Apple partnered with Stanford University’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP) and Dell Inc. on a project designed to match our suppliers with credible schools, drive accountability for vocational schools and raise the quality of education for student interns. Together we’re evaluating the education and internship performance of over 12,000 students, representing more than 130 schools, from 2013 to 2014. The data will be used to evaluate the educational quality of each school. We’re also developing tools to help human resources managers in supplier factories responsibly and systematically assess the quality of schools as they make hiring decisions. These tools will be made public so that all students — not just interns who work for Apple suppliers — can make more informed decisions when enrolling in vocational schools and choosing internships.

Apple suppliers that hire student interns are required to follow additional standards. They must ensure that the educational programme matches the student’s educational goals. Students’ working hours must not conflict with school attendance, and suppliers with a large population of students must attend our Student Worker Training programmes.

We’re evaluating the education and internship performance of over 12,000 students, representing more than 130 schools.

In our experience, Apple is a leader in ensuring that student workers thrive, working closely with suppliers to institute practical standards and innovative strategies for protecting student workers. We’re working with Apple to assess the quality of vocational schools — the main source of student workers in China. Making our findings widely available will not only help Apple to selectively partner with good schools, but also allow hiring managers across the industry to protect and educate workers. Scott Rozelle, Director, Rural Education Action Program Stanford University

Providing a foundation for the most ethical employment.

We take extra measures to protect workers aged 16 to 18, student interns and foreign contract workers. In 2013, we expanded our Prevention of Underage Labour Training and Student Worker Training programmes, pulling them together under a single programme we call Ethical Hiring. The new programme includes tools and training to help our suppliers prevent these workers from being exploited.

In 2013, representatives from 64 suppliers — covering more than 240,000 workers — attended our Ethical Hiring training. This programme offers instruction on human resources best practices like manpower planning and staffing, and it emphasises ethical hiring and management of all classes of workers. The training focuses on the recruitment and management of student, dispatch and juvenile workers; management of private employment agencies; and prevention and remediation of underage labour.

Representatives from 64 supplier facilities attended the Ethical Hiring training in 2013.

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Supplier managers attend Apple’s Student Worker Training in Shanghai, China.

Preventing underage labour.

Our policy on underage labour is clear: we don’t tolerate it, and we’re working to eradicate it from our industry. Any supplier found with underage labour is placed on probation. In the most egregious cases, we terminate the business relationship. We use a comprehensive audit approach to uncover underage labour, including reviewing thousands of employment documents — comparing workers’ onboarding and birth dates to make sure they were not underage when hired. We also look for signs of underage labour during factory tours, we conduct face-to-face interviews to verify the workers’ photo IDs, and we ask questions about the facility’s recruitment and applicant screening process.

In 2013, we audited deeper in our supply chain than ever and conducted 451 audits of supplier facilities that collectively employ nearly 1.5 million workers. Those audits uncovered 23 workers who were underage when hired — significantly fewer than the previous year.

As part of our Underage Labour Remediation Programme, suppliers found violating underage worker rules must return underage workers to school, finance their education at a school chosen by their families, and continue providing income to the workers matching what they received while employed. We follow up regularly to ensure that the workers remain at school and that suppliers continue to uphold their financial commitment.

Underage Labour Remediation Programme

Suppliers must: Return underage workers to school. Finance their education. Continue to provide income.

Stopping excessive recruitment fees and bonded labour.

In countries where labour is in short supply, manufacturers commonly use elaborate networks of third-party brokers to help fill their factories. These labour agencies recruit contract workers from other countries. The agencies often use multiple sub-agencies, each of which may require the workers to pay fees in exchange for employment. This means many workers find they have taken on huge debt even before they start work. To pay off this debt, workers must hand over a high proportion of their wages to the recruiters and remain at the job until the debt is paid. We consider excessive recruitment fees — anything higher than the equivalent of one month’s net wages — a form of bonded labour, and these fees are strictly prohibited by our Supplier Code of Conduct.

Apple requires suppliers to reimburse excessive recruitment fees for any eligible contract worker found working on Apple projects. We strongly encourage our suppliers to uphold this same standard throughout the facility, even in areas with non-Apple workers. Since 2008, our suppliers have reimbursed a total of US$16.9 million to contract workers, including US$3.9 million in 2013. Because we know factories in certain countries are more likely to employ foreign contract labour, we target them for bonded labour audits and help them modify their management systems and practices to comply with our standards. We rarely find recurrences of bonded labour when we conduct follow-up audits, giving us confidence that the combination of strong policies and rigorous checks can make a difference in tackling this problem.

Our suppliers have reimbursed nearly US$17 million to workers for excessive recruitment fees since 2008.

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An auditor interviews workers at a factory in Shenzhen, China.

Responsible sourcing of minerals.

The ethical sourcing of minerals is an important part of our mission to ensure safe and fair working conditions for everyone in our supply chain. We were one of the first companies to survey our suppliers to identify the smelters they use and understand the potential entry points for conflict minerals. We are driving smelters and refiners to be compliant with the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP) or an equivalent third-party audit programme. And rather than avoiding minerals from the DRC and neighbouring countries entirely, we’re supporting verified supply lines and economic development in the region.

In January 2014, we confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in Apple’s supply chain were validated as conflict-free by third-party auditors, and we will continue to require all suppliers to use only verified tantalum sources. We know supply chains fluctuate, and we’ll maintain ongoing monitoring of our suppliers’ smelters.

For tin, tungsten and gold, the electronics industry uses a small percentage of these minerals. We believe the only way to impact the human rights abuses on the ground is to have a critical mass of smelters verified as conflict-free, so that demand for the mineral supply from questionable sources is affected. We are focused on expanding the verified smelter base rather than simply funnelling our demand through a limited number of verified smelters or those that are not sourcing in the DRC. We are working directly with these smelters, and visiting many throughout the world, to encourage their participation in the CFSP. To drive accountability and help stakeholders follow our progress, we are publishing quarterly the names, countries and CFSP participation status of the smelters and refiners in our supply chain. Download the PDF

In addition, we continue to work with NGOs, trade groups, government agencies and others to keep up the pressure and drive real change. The in-region programmes we support include the Conflict-Free Tin Initiative (CFTI), KEMET’s Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability, Solutions for Hope and the Public-Private Alliance (PPA).

Our work on ethical sourcing is not limited to Africa. A large percentage of the world’s tin — including tin in Apple products — comes from Bangka and Belitung Islands in Indonesia. After learning that some of the tin may contribute to environmental damage or pose risks to miners, Apple went to Indonesia to investigate, and visited key stakeholders including officials from the government, NGOs and the smelters. We have since worked with the EICC and IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative to develop the Indonesian Tin Working Group, whose goal is to explore how its members can help resolve the environmental and social challenges of tin mining on Bangka and Belitung Islands while also supporting the economic benefits of a robust mining trade. We will continue to work with the Indonesian Tin Working Group and our regional partners to address these concerns.