Apple upset shareholders last month when it refused to create a comprehensive sustainability report, but the company has earned back some of its green points with its 2010 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (PDF) detailing efforts to make sure that business partners are offering safe working conditions and using environmentally friendly processes. According to the fourth annual report, Apple's suppliers are generally following the company's code of conduct—with a few exceptions.
Apple found 17 core violations in its audit of 102 facilities (mines, ore processors and refiners, final assembly manufacturers, component suppliers, and nonproduction suppliers). The company reports: "In 2009, our audits identified 17 core violations: eight violations involving excessive recruitment fees; three cases where underage workers had been hired; three cases where our supplier contracted with noncertified vendors for hazardous waste disposal; and three cases of falsified records provided during the audit." All of these violations will be corrected in due time—Apple tracks all cases to closure and allows suppliers just 90 days to fix their violations. If suppliers still refuse to comply, Apple stops working with them.
Apple is on the right track with its supplier audits. The company has enough influence to affect the supply chain for the entire electronics industry—much like Walmart wields influence with its supplier Sustainability Index. This is the future for green corporate giants: complete monitoring of the supply chain from beginning to end.