Every worker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
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.
Labor and Human Rights Highlights from Our 2015 Report
Achieved 92 percent compliance with our 60-hour maximum workweek.
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.
Select groups of workers — including students, juveniles, dispatch, and foreign workers — are at greater risk of being targeted by unscrupulous labor brokers and employers. This is fundamentally unacceptable behavior. 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.
Limiting excessive work hours.
Excessive work hours are a widespread and persistent industry problem. At Apple, finding a solution remains a top priority. We limit workweeks to 60 hours, except in unusual circumstances, with at least one day of mandated rest every seven days. And all overtime must be strictly voluntary.
In 2014, we tracked over 1.1 million workers on average per week — adding 57 new facilities to the tracking program — and 92 percent of all workweeks were compliant with our 60-hour maximum standard. Specifically, the average hours worked per week was under 49. Employees who worked more than 40 hours each week worked an average of 55 hours per week. And 94 percent of all workweeks met our requirement of at least one day of rest every seven days.
*Workweeks compliant with 60-hour standard.
Ending underage labor.
Underage labor 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 Labor 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 labor were discovered at six facilities — and all were successfully remediated. This means that underage labor now accounts for 0.001 percent of the total work population audited in our supply chain. Although this number is low, even one case of underage labor 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 backseat to supporting his family. At just 15 years old, Ran borrowed an ID to bypass a nearby factory’s underage labor 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 Labor Remediation Program.
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 labor.
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 Ran. “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 to 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 credentialing 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 percent per facility. In fact, the percentage of students in our supply chain is the lowest it’s ever been, between 1 to 2 percent. We also monitored student working hours, reviewed job types, and made sure internships were strictly voluntary.
Eliminating recruitment fees and bonded labor.
When the labor supply is limited, some suppliers turn to third-party recruiters to secure contract workers. These third parties may charge excessive recruitment fees to foreign contract workers in exchange for jobs. Doing so creates an unjust system that places contract workers in debt before they even begin their jobs.
To protect foreign contract workers, Apple required our suppliers to reimburse US$3.96 million in excess fees to over 4500 foreign contractors in 2014, bringing the total reimbursements to US$20.96 million to over 30,000 foreign contract workers since our program began in 2008. To drive change, we also audited 100 percent of our top 200 facilities that were most at risk of hiring foreign workers, conducting nearly 70 bonded labor assessments.
We are committed to working even harder to end this form of bonded labor. In October 2014, Apple informed our suppliers that, starting in 2015, no worker employed on an Apple line could be charged any recruitment fees. This reduces the allowable fees from one month’s net wages to zero. And, as always, any supplier who uses bonded labor will have to repay all foreign contract workers in full for any fees paid.
Preventing human rights abuse by sourcing responsibly.
It’s not enough to provide workers with job opportunities. Or to make sure that conditions are safe only at our suppliers’ facilities. Our commitment to human rights extends to the deepest levels of the supply chain. That’s why in 2009 we began investigating the potential associated human rights and environmental impacts of using certain minerals like tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold, and in 2010 became one of the first companies to map our supply chain for the use of these minerals down to the level of the associated smelters and refiners. It is an enormous undertaking, because our supply chain works with smelters across the globe. To date, we’ve worked on site, engaging directly with smelters all over the world to support programs that protect the rights of miners.
Eliminating conflict minerals from the supply chain.
Tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold are called conflict minerals because, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjoining regions, their extraction may finance or benefit armed groups associated with human rights violations. Apple is dedicated to using only conflict-free minerals in our products.
The simplest path to calling Apple products conflict-free would be to redirect our demand through a small subset of smelters that are either conflict-free verified, or aren’t sourcing from Central Africa. But this approach would do little to influence the situation on the ground, something we care deeply about. That’s why we have been working to expand the number of verified sources in this region, so that more people can earn a good living, in better conditions.
Improvement through accountability.
In 2011, we began pushing smelters to comply with the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP) or equivalent independent third-party audit programs. To drive accountability and help stakeholders track our progress, we continue to publish a quarterly list of the names, countries, and CFSP participation status of the smelter and refiners in our supply chain. Download the PDF
Preparing to be audited can take time, and we have been working with smelters extensively for the past three years to get them to take the necessary steps to become compliant with our conflict mineral standard. In early 2014, we imposed a deadline to existing smelters that they needed to be verified or in the process by the end of 2014. Otherwise, we would remove them from our supply chain.
Making meaningful progress.
Our approach is working. We more than doubled the number of verified conflict-free smelters to 135 in 2014, and another 64 are in the process of verification by the CFSP or an equivalent independent third-party audit program. Unfortunately, even after extensive encouragement, there were four smelters that were unwilling to commit to be audited by a third party, so Apple put these smelters on notice that they will be removed from our supply chain. All tantalum smelters known to be in our supply chain remained verified as conflict-free throughout 2014. And our list of approved tantalum smelters has also expanded.
Beyond verification, Apple provided funding to six programs working to drive further change and spur economic development in the DRC and neighboring countries. The results include successfully increasing the number of registered miners operating in, and selling their materials through, conflict-free channels, providing educational and health care support to mining communities, and improving methods for tracking materials from the mine to the smelter.
Our efforts in Indonesia.
While Indonesia does not share the same conflict challenges as the DRC, Indonesia does have large populations of small-scale miners — many of whom operate on contested lands — and work under conditions that are environmentally unsound, and pose health and safety risks to workers. So in Indonesia we are taking a similar long-term approach to tackling systemic, widespread problems that require a collective effort to solve.
Apple was the first electronics company to directly engage with Indonesian smelters to try to find ways to work toward improving conditions there. We’ve been actively working on the ground since 2013 to understand and address issues related to tin mining. To further push for solutions, we spearheaded the creation of the Tin Working Group in early 2013, partnering with the Sustainable Trade Initiative IDH, and bringing to the table other technology companies, the industry group ITRI, and the non-governmental organization Friends of the Earth.
Throughout 2013 and 2014, Apple held in-person meetings with government officials and more than 30 Indonesian tin smelters and traders. These meetings are helping to establish the foundation and relationships needed to implement possible solutions, which could include better systems for tracing tin back to legal mines and testing out new land management practices, all while maintaining the livelihood of a small-scale mining population. We’re now focused on working directly with the Indonesian government and the Tin Working Group to put these ideas into practice.
Though it would be a simpler solution to stop our suppliers from sourcing from Indonesian smelters — and to distance ourselves from Indonesia entirely — doing so goes against our core value of leaving the world better than we found it. So we’re choosing to stay, working on the ground to bring about sustained change by holding Indonesian smelters accountable for how they operate. Just as we continue to do in the DRC.
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.
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)
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)
Partnership Africa Canada (PAC)
Public-Private Alliance (PPA)
Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)
Solutions for Hope
Tungsten Industry—Conflict Minerals Council (TI—CMC)