Apple continues to pursue transparency around its supply chain as the Trump administration considers suspending requirements for businesses that buy conflict minerals.
Apple released its 2017 Supplier Responsibility Report today, as concern mounts over the potential impact of a draft directive from the Trump administration that would suspend legislation requiring companies to disclose whether their products contain conflict minerals.
Conflict minerals — substances like tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold — are used in a variety of popular electronics, including smartphones. They are typically sourced from war-torn countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where their mining and sale has historically funded armed groups associated with murder, rape, and other human rights violations.
In an interview on Friday, Paula Pyers, Apple’s senior director of supply chain social responsibility, told BuzzFeed News that 2016 was the company’s best year on record in terms of improvements in the supply chain. Apple conducted 705 assessments of its supply chain in 2016 and removed three suppliers for failing to meet its standards on labor and human rights, environmental standards, and health and safety. (Apple conducted 574 such assessments in 2015.) Separately, in 2016 Apple audited and booted from its supply chain 22 smelters of conflict minerals.
“We’ve been really clear with our suppliers that, notwithstanding any changes to regulations — or deregulation, if you will — we’ll continue to run the same program we’ve been running for the last six years,” Pyers said. “We will continue to drive third-party audit programs. We’ll continue to dig really deep, and stand up accountability and our incident report system. Candidly, we don’t plan any change in that which we are doing.”
Last year, Apple celebrated a supply chain milestone, announcing that 100% of its suppliers of conflict minerals submitted to third-party auditing. While well over 1,000 companies file annual conflict minerals reports with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, few have managed to fully audit their supply chains.
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