The Fair Labor Association (FLA) recently accepted Apple into its organization as a Participating Company. This agreement makes Apple the first technology company to join the FLA, setting a standard for others in the electronics industry.
Apple has a Code of Conduct that it requires its suppliers to adhere to if they are to do business with them. The Code is monitored with Apple-led facility audits, corrective action plans and termination of relationships with suppliers that don’t follow the Code. Apple also publishes a yearly progress report covering supplier audits, violation discoveries and correction plans.
For example, in 2011, Apple found 18 facilities that screened for Hepatitis B and 52 facilities that did not have policies in place to prohibit discrimination based on results of medical tests. Although local laws may not require companies to prohibit these types of discrimination, Apple required the offending companies to stop testing and establish clear policies and procedures to prevent future discrimination.
In response to the Foxconn explosion, as well as an explosion at Pegatron’s Ri-Teng factory, in 2011, Apple worked closely with an investigative team to determine the cause of both explosions and how to avoid another one. A set of standards was created for all suppliers handling aluminum dust, requiring them to implement stronger safety measures for combustible dust. All suppliers have implemented the new regulations except one, which will remain shut down until modifications are in place.
In 2010, Foxconn became headline news for its suicide attempt epidemic. Apple was quickly on scene to assess why the rate of suicide was so high at the company’s Shenzhen plant and worked with them to implement new standards of health and safety, including increased wages and expanding operations to other parts of China so that workers do not have to leave home and live at the factories.
Apple has shown its dedication to ensuring that companies it partners with are treating their workers with humanity and fairness equal to its own set of health and safety standards. That is why the FLA decided to accept the company into the Association.
“We found that Apple takes supplier responsibility seriously and we look forward to their participation in the Fair Labor Association,” said Auret van Heerden, FLA’s President and CEO. “We welcome Apple’s commitment to greater transparency and independent oversight, and we hope its participation will set a new standard for the electronics industry.”
The FLA will conduct independent audits of suppliers working with Apple and requires that Participating Companies align their compliance programs with FLA’s Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing and Code of Conduct. The FLA conducts unannounced audits of factories used by affiliate companies to ensure the Code of Conduct is being adhered to.
Being that Apple is the first technology company to join the FLA, it is likely that others in the industry will want to prove their dedication to fair and safe practices as well. Will we see the likes of Google and Amazon vying for a spot in this strict Association? Will Samsung and Sony follow suite? Apple is known for setting the standard by which other companies strive to follow. This move could see others incorporating stricter health and safety standards for its factory affiliates around the world.
It is the responsibility of major corporations like these to encourage a global Code of Conduct to protect workers rights. Money is the biggest talker in any industry and if companies like Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are threatening to terminate relationships with those who don’t follow the Code, there will be more affiliates working to establish better conditions for its workers.