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Apple fights environmental activists’ charges of pollution by suppliers

By Elaine Kurtenbach
Associated Press / September 2, 2011

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SHANGHAI - Apple is defending itself against a fresh barrage of criticism from Chinese environmental activists over alleged pollution by manufacturers who make its iconic iPhones, iPads, and other products.

In a report issued Wednesday, a group of nongovernmental organizations accused the technology giant of violating its own corporate responsibility standards by using suppliers it said its investigations found are violating the law and endangering public health by discharging heavy metals and other toxins.

Responding to the report, Apple said yesterday that it is committed to “driving the highest standards of social responsibility’’ in its supply chain.

“We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made,’’ it said.

In a letter to the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Beijing-based NGO that spearheaded the report, Apple said it took such concerns seriously but had found discrepancies in the document.

It also proposed a “private conference call’’ with the institute, which responded by asking that other sponsors of the report be included in any dialogue.

Policing supply chains is a headache for big brand name companies, given scandals about labor, environmental, safety and quality problems brought on by outsourcing to myriad factories in China and elsewhere in the developing world.

The latest report explores in more detail findings of an earlier one that took Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., and other big electronics makers to task for alleged violations of labor and environmental standards.

The report said Apple is spreading pollution through its supply chain and names seven facilities owned by five separate suppliers for specific problems, mainly with disposal of hazardous materials such as copper, nickel and cyanide.