Apple has published its 2014 Supplier Responsibility Report, which contains the results of its 2013 supplier audit program. The report confirms that Apple’s partners use only ethically sourced tantalum, a primary metal used in electronic components that can be also be obtained from war-torn regions in Africa.
From the report, via MacRumors:
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.
In the report, Apple confirmed that its suppliers use 20 global refiners whose tantalum has been verified by third-party auditors as what the industry calls “conflict-free.” The company has had success in pressuring tantalum smelters to agree to third-party audits since Apple and other electronics firms are such large customers.
Tantalum, along with other minerals such as gold and tungsten, has become a subject of much controversy in the tech industry, due to sourcing from mines that fund conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The report also listed a number of other achievements for 2013, including Apple’s suppliers 95% compliance rate with the company’s standard maximum 60-hour workweek, and the requiring of suppliers to reimburse $3.9 million in excess foreign contract worker fees.
(Update – 02/13/2014) – Apple’s effort have not gone unnoticed by environmental watchdog and activist agency Greenpeace. The organization provided the following statement to TechCrunch:
Apple’s increased transparency about its suppliers is becoming a hallmark of Tim Cook’s leadership at the company. Apple has flexed its muscles in the past to push suppliers to remove hazardous substances from products and provide more renewable energy for data centers, and it is proving the same model can work to reduce the use of conflict minerals. Samsung and other consumer electronics companies should follow Apple’s example and map its suppliers, so the industry can exert its collective influence to build devices that are better for people and the planet.