Apple has reported an increase in the number of serious violations of working conditions at factories where its products are manufactured, but says that overall conditions improved.
Apple on Wednesday released its latest Progress Report on Supplier Responsibility, an annual accounting of the working and environmental conditions in its supply chain, often in developing nations where enforcement of labor laws and environmental regulations is weak. Most of those facilities are owned by companies that Apple has hired to produce its devices, including iPhones, iPads, Mac computers.
According to Apple, there were 44 “core violations” of its labor policies last year, up from 22 in the previous year. Core violations can include everything from the use of underage workers and involuntary labor to managers intimidating workers.
Apple explained the increase by saying that it is now relying on more new vendors that less familiar with its policies. Apple rectifies problems with its suppliers and works with them to get into compliance with its policies.
Thirty-eight of the core violations last year centered on “labor and human rights,” including labor violations and underage labor. In one case, Apple said that it had discovered that one supplier charged 700 workers in the Philippines a total of $1 million in fees to work. Apple said that it forced the supplier to repay the affected workers.
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Despite such problems, Apple said that suppliers were largely in compliance with its policies. Just 1% of the 756 suppliers Apple monitored earned “low performer” status with scores of 58 or less on a 100-point scale, according to the company, down from 3% in the prior year. Apple works with those suppliers to get them to a higher score.
Apple also said that 59% of its suppliers earned scores of 90 or higher on its scale, a new record.
In addition to its findings, Apple on Wednesday announced plans for a women’s health initiative that would educate women who work at its supplier facilities about personal health. It hopes to have one million women participate in the program by 2020.
In total, Apple conducted 756 supplier audits in 30 countries last year.