updated 11:00 am EDT, Wed August 31, 2011
Apple bends to pressure on eve of report's release
A new report issued by five Chinese NGOs accuses Apple of using known polluters as suppliers, and taking "advantage of the loopholes in developing countries’ environmental management systems." The Financial Times writes that the document has escalated a long-running standoff between Apple and one of the report's authors, Ma Jun, who heads the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. Only hours before the report was released, the company finally agreed to meet with Ma to talk about his accusations. The director says that Apple claimed some of the factories on his list aren't Apple suppliers, but without going into detail.
During the past year the NGO coalition has attempted to get 29 major electronics companies to cooperate on reducing pollution in their supply chains. Apple in particular though has been unresponsive, refusing even to share the names of suppliers despite many of them being known to analysts and the industry. The NGOs say they relied on public data and court documents to compose a list of over 20 Apple suppliers which have broken environmental laws.
A specific problem cited in the report is the city of Kunshan, where air pollution from two factories belonging to Kaedar Electronics and Unimicron Electronics has prompted parents to send kids to distant schools. Residents moreover claim that cancer rates have risen since the factories were launched. Although it's unknown if Kaedar itself is an Apple supplier, analysts have identified Unimicron and Pegatron, Kaedar's parent company, as being in the Apple supply chain.
Western businesses regularly turn to Chinese suppliers because of low costs. The Times notes, though, that suppliers have traditionally exploited loose environmental regulations to help keep prices down. The Chinese government has reportedly been tightening regulation in recent times, and earlier in August some 12,000 members of the public participated in an environmental demonstration in Dalian.