In recent years tech firms have been under great scrutiny for their poor ethical, health and environmental standards. In particular, most of the attention has been on Apple’s history of workers’ rights in its manufacturing plants around the world. A couple of weeks ago, the firm put out its annual Supplier Responsibility Report with some very surprising revelations about their new business practices.
The report showcases Apple’s ongoing Supplier Employee Education and Development (SEED) program, which allows workers to take educational and professional development classes free of charge during off hours. Some of those classes include English, basic computer literacy, and even cosmetology and flower arranging. According to the report, “over 480,000 workers have taken classes through the program since 2008.”
Workers’ rights and safety are also addressed in the report. Apple’s Supplier Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Academy is an 18-month curriculum aimed at educating workers about protecting their personal safety on the job. Nearly 300,000 workers have enrolled in the Academy so far, with plans for expansion in 2014.
Apple is also tracking weekly work hours for over one million workers throughout the supply chain. There is 95 percent compliance by suppliers of the standard 60-hour workweek. The firm conducted 33 audits at facilities employing migrant workers who might be at risk of unfair treatment and is looking into new ways of dealing with worker grievances.
On the environmental front, Apple confirmed last month that all their active, identified tantalum smelters are conflict-free by third party auditors. The firm now supports a better verification process in Central Africa where most conflict minerals are found and supports economic development in the region. Greenpeace congratulated Apple on its sustainability efforts.
You can read the full report on Apple’s website.
If these are any indication of how Tim Cook will lead his company in the future, this is a great start. Hopefully other tech firms will take notice.