Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
China Apple

Apple's Chinese Suppliers Accused of Causing Significant Environmental Damage 346

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the spoonfull-of-mercury dept.
itwbennett writes "Environmental watchdog groups in China on Wednesday released a report detailing a 5-month investigation on electronic suppliers that they believe are used by Apple. According to the report, accessory manufacturer Kaedar Electronics and printed circuit board maker Unimicron have allegedly been discharging waste water and harmful gas from their plants in the Chinese city of Kunshan. The report claims that over a 10-year period, 'many people have fallen sick, with a sharp increase in the village's cancer rates.' Since 2007, more than nine people have suffered or died from cancer in the village, which has a population of fewer than 60. Apple declined to say if the companies named were in fact its suppliers, but company spokeswoman Carolyn Wu, responding to the report, said, 'Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Apple's Chinese Suppliers Accused of Causing Significant Environmental Damage

Comments Filter:
  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:52AM (#37266030)
    American consumers have made their choice a long time ago.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:55AM (#37266076)

      Low prices or pollution in China

      I think you meant to say "High prices or pollution in China"

      • Last I checked the iPhone was one of the most expensive cell phones money can buy.. specialty jewel encrusted gold phones notwithstanding. I don't think I'd call that low prices. How about "High prices and pollution in China".
        • Same thing goes for all Apple products. Apple is well known for having extremely high prices.
        • by MikeURL (890801) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:51PM (#37268412) Journal

          Like everything else in corporate America it is "moderate prices, pollution in China, high profit"

          The profit margin is where all the action happens. if there were no profit in it then Apple would not offshore their production. You think a control freak like SJ really wants to have production happen on the other side of the planet? I'm sure he'd prefer to be able to drive down the road and make sure everything is going well. But like every executive in the world he looks at the economics of paying workers a dollar an hour, skirting every environmental regulation and compares that to the US. You start off with a baseline of a workforce in the US that is 8 to 10 times more expensive than China. And that is just for starters. Once you throw in things like payroll taxes and environmental compliance you are probably talking about costs that are 20x what they are in China.

          Oh and guess what Apple's profit would be if costs were increased 20x? Roughly negative 35 billion a year. Most of the production-heavy companies that we think of as strong and viable would be bankrupt in a week, or have to double prices, if they had to employ Americans. Personally I don't think it is such a tragedy to pay $1,400 for an iPad and have all those jobs come back to the US. But I know there are people who would kill their whole family and store them in a freezer if they could save 5% off.

    • by jgagnon (1663075) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:12PM (#37266292)

      Low prices or pollution in China..

      With Apple you get high prices AND pollution in China. :p

    • by nharmon (97591) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:18PM (#37266352) Homepage

      Please. More like: Unemployment or pollution in China; Chinese people have made their choice a long time ago.

      China knows what increasing environmental standards will do to them. It is the same thing they did to us: shift manufacturing elsewhere. That is not to say they should not raise their standards; but it is hard to ignore the costs of doing so.

      Placing this on the shoulder of American consumers ignores the fact that if Americans did not demand low prices, much of that manufacturing would have stayed in America.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Hey, guess what? the world is finite. Raise standard everywhere, and compete no manufacturing quality.

        • by nharmon (97591)

          That is the best long-term global strategy, but in the long-term we're all dead.

          In the mean time you have to expect that developing countries are going to go lax on their environmental standards for a time so that they can catch up.

        • by shentino (1139071)

          That's nice in a cooperative world.

          But in today's cutthroat international environment there's MUCH to gain from cheating. Especially in the case of sovereign nations that cannot be put in prison or fined.

      • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:41PM (#37266654) Journal

        Well, the problem is, when it IS cheaper to build somewhere else because you don't have to worry about pesky things like child labor, and environmental issues, then yeah. It is HARD to IMPOSSIBLE to compete when the playing field is not level. THIS is why everyone left for China.

        And you can thank all the people who wanted to normalize relations and "free" trade with China. Both (R) and (D) parties are to blame here, because both don't give a real shit about LIBERTY. Mainly because they don't understand Liberty and are mired in Group Politics and class warfare debates, while liberties are being systematically removed.

        To fix this problem, we have to DEMAND that imported goods are manufactured under the same rules and regulations required by US law, and charge import duties or refuse entry for all products that do not comply with US Law. Fair Trade, not Free Trade. We cannot impose our laws on others, we can only enforce them at our borders.

        And, if YOU are not willing to demand such action, then you cannot complain about the results such as the one mentioned in the article. People are buying from China (and other places) and when people do, they're part of the problem. There is no way a US manufacturer can make a product in the US, and compete against low wage, lax environmental laws and lack of regulation.

        You want to fix the problem fix the two party system that enables it.

        • by Kenja (541830)
          Dont forget that China has around a 40% tarif on goods made outside of their borders while we have around 5%. So if a company wants to sell their product in China, they had best move the jobs there as well.
        • by bws111 (1216812)

          Why does anyone have to DEMAND any ACTION? If you don't approve of China's labor, etc, don't buy products made in China. If enough people do that, companies will get the hint. Yes, this may mean that people may actually have to voluntarily give up having some things they otherwise might have. Oh, the horror! On the other hand, if people don't stop buying Chinese products, what makes you think they actually want policies that prevent them from getting Chinese products? The problem is not the two-party

      • by JSBiff (87824)

        Seems to me that a governmental policy which disallows pollution *in* America, but allows imports of products from companies which have no such restrictions, played a big roll too.

        I'm not against importing products from other nations, per se, but it seems to me that it would be altogether *reasonable* and *sane* to require imported products manufacturer's to adhere to the same rules as domestic suppliers.

        What has happened was entirely predictable when domestic companies are forced to compete on an asymmetri

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ryanrule (1657199)
      Consumers did not make that choice. American businesses made their choice a long time ago.
      • This is the problem of the group thinking. Consumers are Businesses, and Businesses are consumers . YOU are both. Unless you work for the government, in which case you live off of businesses and consumers taxes.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      And, in fairness, China has chosen between industry with little or no controls, and pollution/the environment.

      For the same reason that a lot of Chinese children fell ill when their milk powder was laced with melamine [telegraph.co.uk] ... because there are either no controls, or it's really easy to bypass them. Ultimately, they exported this to us as pet food [usatoday.com].

      Hell, even if Apple (or whoever) had stipulated that they do it all according to the book because they wanted to be ethical, there's no guarantee it would have happene

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        Exactly, when we cracked down on it here they just moved to where it was open season. I guarantee that Chinese officials are probably cheaper to bribe as well so the few regs they have are easier/cheaper to bypass.

    • Both!

    • by shentino (1139071)

      I'd even bet that the Chinese authorities only cared because it was an American business at the bottom of the supply chain.

  • by Alcimedes (398213) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:57AM (#37266098)

    From the article.

    "Apple does this by regularly conducting audits and working with suppliers to correct violations, according to the company's 2011 supplier responsibility progress report. In 2010, the company audited 127 facilities and found that 89% of them had waste water management practices in compliance with Apple's requirements.

    The same audits, however, found that only 69% of the facilities were in compliance with air emission management standards. Only 70% of the facilities were in compliance for environmental permits and reporting. When violations are found, Apple requires the supplier to complete plans to resolve the problem 90 days after the audit."

    Do we have 100% compliance in the states? How does this compare to US rates?

    • by Altus (1034)

      In the US its more than just apple doing the audit. I don't know how Apple's standards compare to the EPA standards, but much of this would be illegal in this country and it wouldn't really be up to Apple to police it.

      It's good to hear about an active environmental group in China though. With time, hopefully there will be change. It will mean more expensive hardware, but that is inevitable.

      • by name_already_taken (540581) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @01:00PM (#37266936)

        I don't know how Apple's standards compare to the EPA standards, but much of this would be illegal in this country and it wouldn't really be up to Apple to police it.

        It's illegal in China too!

        The cause of this problem is nothing to do with Apple, Western consumers, or anything else outside of China.

        In China, pretty much everything is illegal. They have laws against everything you can think of, including adulterating milk with melamine to produce false test results. The problem is that you can't do anything in China without getting permission from the government. Businesses that actually comply with all the Chinese regulations go out of business very quickly because their competition is willing to gain an advantage by cheating - i.e. bribing officials, whatever.

        The culture that has developed under this situation is such that nobody complies with regulations in China. It is simpler, faster and cheaper to pay bribes and to lie about compliance.

        Once in a while, they'll do something that results in people getting hurt or killed, like the melamine in the milk. The government will round up the head of the milk company and execute him, but nothing really changes that will make their food supply more trustworthy or safe.

        I have seen photographs of raw materials processing plants in China spewing huge clouds of colorful smoke into the air. It looked like a movie special effect. The same type of plant in a modern country like Brazil, for example, is three times the size of the Chinese plant - 2/3 of the Brazilian plant's volume is dedicated to equipment that captures the harmful byproducts given off by the process and prevents them from getting out into the environment. This is why the Chinese shut down a fair portion of their raw materials and manufacturing industry just prior to the Beijing Olympics - to allow the pollutants to dissipate and raise the air quality for the games.

        I know of at least one manufacturing plant in California that can demonstrate that they are actually discharging air that is cleaner than the intake air. They are required to meet environmental standards, and they do it. In China a similar plant would just pay off the inspector.

        Short of customers such as Apple stationing full-time inspection crews all the way down the supply chain (pretty much impossible), there's not much they can do. I have also seen pictures of expensive Italian quality control equipment in Chinese plants - everything in the plant looked dirty and worn, but the quality control equipment looked brand new. It was in place so they could pass their quality certification audit but it wasn't in normal day-to-day use, and nobody at the plant actually knew how to use any of it!

        Frankly we're lucky Chinese products aren't falling apart or killing people all the time. Go on Youtube and look for Chinese car crash tests if you want a real eye-opener.

        Almost any product made in China carries the risk of poor quality, false components, or pollution at some point in the supply chain. It's not an Apple problem. It's a China problem.

  • by networkconsultant (1224452) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:57AM (#37266102)
    1. Fabricate an Icon 2. Market Said Icon 3. Move all manufacturing of said Icon to the lowest (and therefore dirtiest place) on the planet. We don't manufacture anything in North America anymore because we have environmental regulations that cost billions of dollars to comply with; china has some regulations but it's always cheaper to bribe the party member than pay the bill. I wonder if the Chinese people know they are poising their own back yard? that's why we have said expensive regulations.
    • by Tsingi (870990)

      We don't manufacture anything in North America anymore because we have environmental regulations that cost billions of dollars to comply with.

      That's one reason, I doubt it's the main reason. It's cheaper to produce things in China for many reasons, mainly labour.

      So this is how Reagan's trickle down economics work, give companies huge tax breaks, many pay no taxes at all, and that money will trickle down, as we have seen above, to... China.

      So much for that theory.

      • That's one reason, I doubt it's the main reason. It's cheaper to produce things in China for many reasons, mainly labour.

        You'd be surprised. Labour is cheap in China, but it's also a very small part of the total cost. Foxconn is now moving towards using robotic factories instead of employing cheap labour, which makes the differential even lower. On the other hand, being able to dump your waste in the nearest river, instead of containing it and paying for it to be processed is a significant cost.

    • Yeah, because we NEVER bribe party members here in the US. It's not bribery only because we call it a PAC, but it's the same thing. "Here congress critter, have some money, but only if you vote the way we want you to."

      • by geekoid (135745)

        That's not a PAC, and that's not how ti works. It's not the same as bribary.

        “If you can't take their money, drink their booze, eat their food, screw their women, and vote against them, you don't belong here.” - Jesse M. Unruh

        Are their problem with a PAC? yes. Is it the same as bribary? no. If it was there wouldn't be an EPA, minimum wage, women rights, black voters, and so on.

        • My last company (giant defense contractor) had a PAC and it was straight up bribery. They browbeat us to contribute a percentage of our pay to the PAC, then they use that money to give to politicians who promise to vote for things that are in the best interest of the Defense Industry. How is that not bribery?

  • With a phrase like "Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base," that's basically a free ticket to PR/Plausible Deniability, whether their company is linked to the supplier or not. Of course, none of this really matters, because the parts have to come from somewhere, and China happens to have the largest concentration of rare earths.
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:59AM (#37266136) Journal

    How many computer or electronic device makers have Chinese plants producing their circuit boards for them? Last I checked, Apple was only one of MANY. Yet this article makes it sound like Apple, alone, is at fault here for not making good on their claim that they're committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout their supply base.

    Let's face the facts. Only *China* can take care of pollution in China. If their government doesn't consider it important for businesses operating there not to dump hazardous waste into their ground-water, that's the decision they've made on behalf of their citizens.

    When you do business with China, you accept many pros and cons. For example, as Apple is finding out, China also has little regard for intellectual property and copyright -- so plenty of jobs are being created by way of counterfeiting Apple's products and tarnishing their reputation/good name. Again, as much as Apple may be committed to ensuring their intellectual property is protected, they can only do what the Chinese government is WILLING to do for them in those regards, in their nation.

    • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:08PM (#37266252)
      "Let's face the facts. Only *China* can take care of pollution in China."

      Yes, wer'e all powerless to be informed consumers. All we can do is give companies money for shiny things and leave the consequences up to others. Its clearly unpossible for tech companies to move manufacturing to countries with regulations or to just not act like asses when they set up their foreign subsidiaries.
      • by beelsebob (529313)

        The point he was making was that yes, you are indeed powerless, as all companies do this. In fact, I would bet heavily that most companies don't have the auditing process apple has set up that's mentioned in TFA.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dkleinsc (563838)

        Yes, wer'e all powerless to be informed consumers. All we can do is give companies money for shiny things and leave the consequences up to others.

        Actually, we are fairly powerless.

        For instance: Let's say there are 10 suppliers of consumer desktops capable of running my software of choice at an acceptable level of performance. Now, all those suppliers need a supplier of memory chips, so they all go out to the free market looking for memory chip manufacturers, and find that they're all, quite independently, talking to the 2-3 vendors of memory chips. Each memory chip manufacturer, in turn, is looking to keep the costs down, builds their factory in Chin

    • by Duradin (1261418)

      The only Foxconn employees who committed suicide were working Apple parts, or so /. tells me.

    • by jandrese (485)
      Companies go after Apple because in the past Apple has actually taken steps to fix the problems. They put pressure on Foxconn after the negative publicity a couple of years ago. It's the same reason people go after Starbucks about Fair Trade Coffee, because those companies have an image and a consumer who actually care about those issues. They're not going to try to raise a big stink about Acer for instance, because it's not going to get much traction.
    • by Chibi (232518)

      Let's face the facts. Only *China* can take care of pollution in China.

      I have some in-laws in South Korea. They've said that there is a yellow dust (smog? Something else?) that blows from China into South Korea. So, their pollution issues has an impact not only on themselves, but their neighbors as well. China isn't the only one guilty of this, but they're probably considered one of the worst offenders of this /anecdotal.

    • by timholman (71886)

      How many computer or electronic device makers have Chinese plants producing their circuit boards for them? Last I checked, Apple was only one of MANY. Yet this article makes it sound like Apple, alone, is at fault here for not making good on their claim that they're committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout their supply base.

      The reason that they are focusing on Apple is because Apple will not pay protection money to organizations like Greenpeace. When other computer com

    • Because "Chinese companies supplying multiple US companies found to pollute the environment" doesn't have the publicity that "Apple suppliers found to pollute the environment" will.
    • by dave562 (969951)

      The consumers of Apple products have a certain image to maintain. They like to perceive themselves as progressive and socially responsible. Therefore any organization that wants to make an issue of the dirty business practices engaged in by Chinese manufacturing companies will look at a company like Apple and lampoon them. In theory, Apple's hip, socially conscious consumers are more likely to influence Apple than say HP's or IBM's corporate purchasing agents.

      Of course it won't work. One of the most soc

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:00PM (#37266142)

    almost a century ago the europeans dumped their cheap manufacturing to the USA and by the 1960's parts of the USA were environmental nightmares. we fixed it with the EPA and a few laws, but a few morons actually want to bring this back to the USA.

      I live in NYC and parts of the city are still uninhabitable due to pollution years ago, the original polluters are long gone and anyone who builds will have to pay for the clean up. Jetblue paid tens of millions to clean up parts of JFK airport to build a new terminal.

    at some point the chinese will wise up and stop allowing us to pollute their country

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Kenja (541830)
      Also 50 years in the future if the anti-regulation, pro-corporation, anti-union types get their way.
    • by tero (39203)

      ...and that's when production moves to Africa.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:02PM (#37266174) Journal
    They should be ashamed of rejecting Apple's gifts. iCancer is a truly aspirational lifestyle disease. The revolutionary unibody tumor construction, with the most advanced custom-vascularization in the industry(PC detractors might argue that these are just made of your own commodity cells these days; but it's the unique integration and superb resistance to apoptosis that really makes them special), and Apple's trademark 'It Just Hurts' UX design truly make this the disease to have.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "also found to have polluted a lake in the Chinese city of Wuhan with copper and nickel"

      Seriously dude, you wonder if those peasants even know how much value has been added to their water.

  • In an effort to maintain their lowest-bid status with one of the world's most profitable technology companies, multiple Chinese manufacturers decide to reduce costs by cutting corners on safety. News at 11.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:03PM (#37266188)

    Another example of "apple name dropping" for hits and sensationalism. Unimicron's clients include HTC, Motorola, Sony, Gigabyte, etc.
    Everything is made in China, and everyone of us -- Apple customer or otherwise -- is a party to whatever hells happen over there.

    • As long as we can continue buying cheap electronic devices, we won't give two shits what happens to the countries or people who actually produce the goods. That's the beauty of globalization. We're so far removed from the actual costs of our insatiable appetite for cheap consumer goods, it never dawns on us that our comfort comes at the cost of another's cancer or starvation.

    • by Shados (741919)

      I dont see HTC flaunting how green and environment friendly they are.

      Apple however does that on occasion.

  • Bit vague (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Harold Halloway (1047486) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:16PM (#37266334)

    ' Since 2007, more than nine people have suffered or died from cancer in the village...'

    'More than nine'? So 10? 11? It seems like it wouldn't be difficult to include the precise number.

    • by jandrese (485)
      Presumably those were just the documented cases, but the author has reason to believe that there were some number of cases that weren't documented (people without access to a doctor who just up and died from it undiagnosed).
  • Bullshit article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mveloso (325617) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:18PM (#37266368)

    From the summary: "suppliers that they believe are used by Apple"

    Trolling by using Apple's name is a time-honored tradition in environmental groups. Yeah, they may be used by Apple...but they may not be. Maybe they're used by Dell? HP? Lenovo? GM? Ford? Chrysler? Qualcomm? Panda Express?

  • Seriously? 9 people have died of cancer...in China, population 1.3 billion. 9 out of 1,300,000,000?

    • by jzarling (600712)
      They mention a village of 60, which is not named in the article - so I inferred the 9 were form that village downstream.
      its a poorly written article.
    • by gubers33 (1302099)
      Did you read the article? It was 9 out of the 60 that live in the small village, which is 15% of the population.
    • by pluther (647209)

      ...more than nine people have suffered or died from cancer in the village, which has a population of fewer than 60.

      Seriously? 9 people have died of cancer...in China, population 1.3 billion. 9 out of 1,300,000,000?

      Were you actually unable to read all the way to the end of that sentence, or are you deliberately trying to mislead in the hopes that nobody else read the summary?

  • Whether or not American companies do their manufacturing in China, Chinese companies will continue their environmentally harmful practices. It's convenient to blame Americans and the West for everything but the Chinese were doing this sort of thing long before we set up factories there. They simply don't care, economic growth is more important than anything else.

    That said, it frustrates me to no end that American companies are not held accountable for what their manufacturers in China do. Every time some de

  • I'm not surprised... I was in China in the summer of 2001, and one of the things I vividly remember was riding the train from Beijing to Shanghai, and looking out the window at a factory with smokestacks belching bubblegum-pink smoke into the sky. That cannot be healthy, or likely legal, but in general in China rules and regulations are one thing on paper, and another thing in practice.

  • by Tailhook (98486)

    Over here [twitter.com] you may observe the iphone enabled twit-verse moan about Cantor proposing rollbacks of environmental regulation.

    Environmental regulation without trade balance is international NIMBYism, folks.

  • by gubers33 (1302099) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:34PM (#37266562)
    Apple bought products from these companies, they don't run the companies. That would be like me blaming you for buying a shirt made by slave children. It is Apple's job to monitor its suppliers business practices. I'm not an Apple fan at all and I have written posts where I think Apple is off base suing Samsung and HTC because they both make tablets, but I can be realistic. Apple deserves no blame in here and probably doesn't need to be in the article, but obviously it will sell more and grab more attention if it is in the article. Now that being said if they are Apple's suppliers it would probably be best for Apple to drop them and distance themselves from the story. If they continue to use these suppliers, now that they know of their shady bushiness actions, then maybe you can blame them.
    • There is another option.

      Apple (and Dell, HP, etc etc) could work with these companies to clean up their act.

      Just dropping them as a supplier is probably the worst thing they could do. The company would probably just close down, move to a new city and open up under another name and carry on as if nothnig had happened.

  • No regulations on worker rights, human rights, or environmental rights. And, if you complain about it that makes you an anti-business, tree hugging, libtard. Now, get back in that Walmart line with your $3 t-shirt and STFU.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      No regulations on worker rights, human rights, or environmental rights.

      What else do you expect from a bunch of commies?

  • Very interesting movie on this subject and the "recycling" of western technology Manufactured Landscapes (2006) [imdb.com]
  • Hypocrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Caerdwyn (829058) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @01:00PM (#37266934) Journal

    So I can then conclude that all you Apple-haters have personally investigated the source of your motherboards, memory, GPUs, cases, and power supplies of the environmentally-perfect PCs you are using to bash Apple upon? Got a component made by Asus? Foxconn? Any other Chinese company? Yeah, they only engage in environmentally-destructive practices when they're building for Apple.

    By your logic, YOU are just as responsible for any pollution and exploitation from YOUR computer components as Apple. You don't get a free ride just because you don't have a black turtleneck.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      So I can then conclude that all you Apple-haters have personally investigated the source of your motherboards, memory, GPUs, cases, and power supplies of the environmentally-perfect PCs you are using to bash Apple upon?

      No, we just don't care. We aren't claiming to be 'socially responsible', whereas according to the summary Apple apparently is.

  • by retroworks (652802) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @04:25PM (#37269374) Homepage Journal
    Having worked with China environmental industries for over a decade, I skimmed TFA and one thing jumps out immediately... These "violations" the report is built on are actual FINES and ENFORCEMENT of Chinese Environmetal Law. China EPA was NOT enforcing these laws ten years ago. This is actually what progress looks like. If you look up environmental fines and enforcements in the USA, you could write the same report. In the past, you could not have written this report about China.

"Anyone attempting to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin." -- John Von Neumann

Working...