In March 2020 Patently Apple posted a report titled "China sells Muslim minority workers to Factories making U.S. Products for Apple, Nike, Adidas and others." In July 2020, Apple denied that one of their Chinese suppliers were using Uighur slave labor. In November 2020, the Washington Post claimed that Apple was lobbying against a U.S. bill aimed at stopping forced labor in China which highlighted the clash between its business imperatives and its official stance on human rights. Although Apple continued to deny that a supplier of theirs was using slave labor, in March 2021 we posted a report titled "Apple cuts off China's OFilm over using Uyghur slave labor" proving the reports were right all along. Then came another damming report by The Information in May that seven Apple suppliers were accused of using force labor from Xinjiang where it's populated by mostly Uyghurs.
Today we're learning that Apple and Microsoft suppliers have been exposed in Australia's anti-slavery law. Kitto, the Sydney-based director of Be Slavery Free, a non-profit organization stated in a Bloomberg report that 'It’s not if they’ve got slavery, it’s when they find it. It’s that pervasive, almost every business has a risk of slavery in their supply chains.'
A ground-breaking program launched in Australia is making it easier for activists like Kitto — along with governments and investors – to track the harsh, slave-like conditions that afflict some 40 million people around the world, the vast majority of them in Asia.
Under laws that came into force in 2019, companies and investors generating more than A$100 million ($71 million) in revenue must detail how they’re managing the risk of slavery in their supply chains, and are required to upload their reports into a publicly accessible database. Firms must also outline the steps they’ve taken to fix any issues, a requirement that goes beyond laws in the U.K. or France, and is being studied by nations including the U.S. as a potential template for action."
The report specifically pointed to Microsoft reporting 46 'major” slavery-related issues, including fees paid by suppliers to recruiters, while Apple uncovered seven metal smelters or refiners that didn’t meet the company’s sourcing requirements.
Further, the report pointed to Apple closely monitoring plans to fix issues found in metal smelters and refiners within its supply chain. If those plans are delayed, the iPhone maker will use its leverage to speed up remediation, or terminate applicable business relationships.
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Typically in the realm of governments and activists, obligations to respect human rights are shifting to businesses and fund managers as they profit from increasingly complex global supply chains that may exploit labor. Infractions can include putting workers into servitude by confiscating their passports or making them pay recruitment fees. Of the world’s enslaved workers, one in four are children. These employees contribute to products generating about $150 billion in profits a year, according to the International Labor Organization. For more on this, read the full Bloomberg report.
Apple cutting off OFilm due to using slave labor after they continually denied it in public no doubt dinged their credibility. Especially after The Information months later pointed to several other Apple suppliers were involved in slave labor.
Yet there's equally no denying that Apple is making a corporate effort to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery in their business and Supply Chain, which is one of the most disturbing issues of our time.