Has your company published a supplier code of conduct? Most likely it has. Is it conducting supplier audits to ensure that the code of conduct is being followed? Maybe. Does it have a plan in place if you turn up something truly ugly? Doubtful. Would you publish those results if they were bad? Yeah . . . probably not.
Enter Apple, which recently released its latest Supplier Responsibility 2011 Progress Report, which outlines the specific findings of its own supplier audits. The results?
“In 2010, our audits of 127 facilities revealed 37 core violations: 18 facilities where workers had paid excessive recruitment fees, which we consider to be involuntary labor; ten facilities where underage workers had been hired; two instances of worker endangerment; four facilities where records were falsified; one case of bribery; and one case of coaching workers on how to answer auditors’ questions.” (Source: Apple Supplier Responsibility, 2011 Progress Report)
I give Apple high praise for making this information public. Hopefully, it has a ripple effect in the industry and we’ll see more transparency. Public sentiment does not separate the company that assembles an iPad from the Apple brand. Even if you’ve outsourced the supply chain, there’s still a corporate responsibility to ensure that socially and environmentally sound business practices are taking place. And this goes for subcontractor relationships too — yes, in the eyes of the consumer, you are responsible for your supplier’s supplier’s actions. Apple gets this.