Apple Inc. is stepping up efforts to improve its image by showing that its campaign to support fair labor practices has some teeth.
On Thursday (Jan. 24), Apple reported terminating a relationship with one of its China-based suppliers after an audit concluded the supplier had more than 70 employees under the age of 16.
In its annual supplier responsibility report, Apple (Cupertino, Calif.) said it severed its relationship with Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co. Ltd. in January 2012 after its auditors discovered 74 cases of workers under the age of 16. Apple described this as "a core violation of our code of conduct." Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics supplies a standard circuit board component that is used by many companies, Apple said.
Bowing to public pressure after scrutiny over the working conditions at Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. and other key suppliers, Apple one year ago became the first electronics firm to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a watchdog group that independently assesses and monitors working conditions in factories around the world. Hon Hai, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer with extensive operations in mainland China, operates under the trade name Foxconn.
Apple's 2013 supplier responsibility report also offered some good—and surprising—news. In 2012, Apple said it found no cases of underage labor at any of its final assembly suppliers, presumably including Foxconn. "While we are encouraged by these results, we will continue regular audits and go deeper into our supply chain to ensure that there are no underage workers at any Apple supplier," Apple said. "Many suppliers tell us that we are the only company performing these audits, so when we do find and correct problems, the impact goes far beyond our own suppliers."