In Apple CEO Tim Cook’s keynote presentation at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco Tuesday, he responded to complaints about working conditions in Chinese factories and notes how these would be improved:
We think the use of underage labor is abhorrent. It’s extremely rare in our supply chain, but our top priority is to eliminate it totally. We’ve done that with our final assembly vendors and are now working down into the supply chain. If we find a supplier that intentionally hires underage labor, it’s a firing offense.
We don’t let anyone cut corners on safety. If there’s a production process that can be made safer, we seek out the foremost authorities in the world, the foremost experts, then cut in a new standard and then take that and apply it to the entire supply chain.
We focus on the details. If there’s a fire extinguisher missing from the cafeteria kitchen, then that facility doesn’t pass inspection until that fire extinguisher is in place.
We’re continuing to focus on the problems that our endemic to our industry, like excessive overtime. Our code of conduct has a cap of 60 hours for a work week, but we’ve consistently found violations to this code over the course of our time. So at the beginning of this year, we announced that we’re determined to drive widespread change.
And we’ve begun to manage working hours at a very micro basis. As an example, in January, we collected weekly data on over half a million workers in our supply chain. And we had 84% compliance. Now this is significantly improved from the past, but we can do better. And we’re taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website, so that it’s transparent to everyone what we’re doing.
Now as you probably know, the Fair Labor Association began a major audit of our final assembly vendors, at our request. We started working with the FLA last year on an auditing project and just in January, we were the first technology company ever admitted into their association.
The audit that they’re conducting is probably the most detailed factory audit in the history of mass manufacturing. In scale, in scope, and in transparency. And I’m looking forward to seeing it resolved.