Workers assemble parts of electronic devices in a foxconn factory in China. [File photo]
Apple Inc. has agreed to a jointly monitored audit of pollution controls at one of its supplier's factories in China, a move considered by environmental activists as a breakthrough in their efforts to persuade Apple to address environmental issues.
A manufacturer of Apple's printed circuit boards will be inspected by auditors in the next few weeks. The audit will be jointly monitored by Apple and China's Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), a non-government organization that has built up a database of 97,000 environmental violation cases gleaned from official data.
Apple has held lengthy talks with the IPE in recent months, and last month the Cupertino-based company voiced support for a report issued by the Fair Labor Association which suggested improving working conditions in Foxconn's three factories on the Chinese mainland.
In 2010, an environmental coalition led by the IPE produced a report concerning pollution and health problems caused by suppliers' hazardous waste in China. Apple was the only one of 29 companies that didn't respond to the report.
IPE's director Ma Jun said that Apple had a change of heart two weeks after the organization released a second report in September 2011 which mentioned that pollution was becoming an increasing problem in Apple's supply chain. Talks between the IPE and Apple subsequently began in Beijing.
Apple had previously insisted that detailed information about its suppliers and its own audits about them should be kept confidential.
"But now it [the information] needs verification. We keep telling them they cannot just say everything is done," Ma Jun said. "We need proof."
Apple met the IPE-led coalition last November and told it an outside professional company had been brought in to conduct supervision regarding environmental practices.
The IPE hopes that the jointly-monitored audit will serve as a pilot which will be rolled out to 13 other factories at which Apple has been conducting its own environmental probes.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.
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