SAN FRANCISCOóBowing to pressure in the wake of a string of suicides at supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. last year, Apple Inc. has agreed to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a watchdog group that independently assesses and monitors working conditions in factories around the world.
In a statement issued Friday (Jan. 13), the FLA said it would independently assess facilities in Apple's supply chain and report detailed findings on the FLA website. Apple is the first technology company to join the FLA as a participating company, the organization said.
Apple drew criticism last year after a string of more than a dozen suicides at Hon Hai, a contract manufacturer more commonly known by the trade name Foxconn. Some blamed the suicides on poor living and working conditions for Foxconn employees.
Foxconn builds iPads, iPhones and other products for Apple. The contract manufacturer also builds products for a host of other electronics companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc., Nokia Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.
Earlier Friday, Apple released a report disclosing 156 of its suppliers, saying the listed suppliers represent 97 percent of Apple's procurement expenditures for materials, manufacturing and assembly of the company's products worldwide.
Established by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999, the Fair Labor Association's stated mission is to improve working conditions in factories around the world. Other participating companies affliated with the group include Nike Inc., New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc., New Era Cap Co. Inc and several others. The FLA said participating companies agree to uphold the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct throughout their supply chains and commit to the FLA's Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing.
In 2011, the FLA worked with Apple to assess the impact of Apple's training programs which help raise awareness of labor rights and standards among workers in its supply chain. Apple will align its compliance program with FLA obligations within the next two years, the FLA said.
"We found that Apple takes supplier responsibility seriously and we look forward to their participation in the Fair Labor Association," said Auret van Heerden, the FLA's president and CEO, in a statement.
In addition to conducting independent assessments of participating companies' supplier facilities, the FLA works with civil society organizations, universities and companies to develop and improve social responsibility programs and provide training and capacity building at the facility and brand level, the group said.
"We're extremely proud to be the first technology company admitted to the FLA," said Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations. Williams said Apple performed more than 200 audits of supplier facilities around the world last year.