Apple has become the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association as a Participating Company, obligating the Cupertino firm to open its chain of suppliers to regular investigation by the FLA's auditors. The membership was announced as part of Apple's annual responsibility report, which also included a breakdown of the top 95-percent of the company's suppliers; never a firm to shirk from hyperbole, Apple commented that "it's a level of transparency and independent oversight that is unmatched in our industry."
"Apple will also open its supply chain to the FLA's independent auditing team, who will measure our suppliers' performance against the FLA's Workplace Code of Conduct and the results will appear on their website" Apple
In addition to the checks, the FLA will also be working with Apple on its worker empowerment program and its Supplier Employee Education and Development (SEED) program. These teach workers their employment rights - including health & safety and occupational health standards - as well as offering classes in finance, computers and English. The FLA already works with civil society organizations, universities and companies on social responsibility programs.
"We found that Apple takes supplier responsibility seriously and we look forward to their participation in the Fair Labor Association. We welcome Apple's commitment to greater transparency and independent oversight, and we hope its participation will set a new standard for the electronics industry." Auret van Heerden, president, FLA
Apple said that 229 audits took place in 2011, an 80-percent uptick from 2010, just short of half of which were first-time investigations. The company also called in independent engineering experts to carry out new environmental checks on fourteen specific Chinese facilities. "We uncovered some violations" Apple confirmed, but says it "worked with our suppliers to correct the issues."