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Apple Addresses Factory Pollution In China 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the progress-marches-on dept.
redletterdave writes "Apple reportedly sent five employees to meet with five different Chinese environmental groups on Nov. 15, only to learn about several troubling environmental issues at as many as 22 different product parts suppliers. In the three-hour meeting, the Chinese environmentalist coalition claimed the factories were releasing toxic gasses, heavy metal sludge and other pollutants. Apple acknowledged that a number of its supply firms have failed to properly keep track of their wastewater emissions and vowed to improve its environmental standards for suppliers; this is the first time Apple has admitted any wrongdoing in relation to environmental pollution from any of its Chinese supply chains. The meeting comes one month after one of Apple's Chinese suppliers of MacBook parts was shut down by China's government in response to resident complaints of 'unbearable odors,' which were described as a mix of chemical fertilizer and burning plastic."
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Apple Addresses Factory Pollution In China

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  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:08PM (#38089740)
    I'm not an apple fan, I like Linux. However all hardware manufacturers are guilty here not just apple.
    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by coinreturn (617535) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:13PM (#38089802)

      I'm not an apple fan, I like Linux. However all hardware manufacturers are guilty here not just apple.

      Actually, Apple and other manufacturers are NOT responsible for their SUPPLIERS' mishaps.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ganjadude (952775) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:16PM (#38089830) Homepage
        no they are not, you are right

        but

        they can choose to use suppliers who do not pollute, and people can decide not to shop with a company that uses suppliers who pollute. slightly different but in the same vein, look at the nike sweatshop issue for proof that shoppers do care about the conditions that suppliers work
        • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:46PM (#38090950) Homepage Journal

          no they are not, you are right

          Actually, yes they are, he's wrong.

          they can choose to use suppliers who do not pollute,

          That contradicts what you said before. Because if they don't choose good suppliers, they're effectively condoning and supporting bad ones.

          Obligatory car analogy: If you get food poisoning at a restaurant, it's the restaurant who is liable, not the shithead who sold them defrosted prawns as fresh ones. Or should I say directly liable, i.e. to you; should you sue the restaurant, they can probably charge the vendor in turn.

          In short: you're responsible to your customers for consequences caused by any and all subcontractors/suppliers you choose. And this makes 100% sense - if you weren't, you could get away with all kinds of scams using shell/sockpuppet companies. And that's reserved for Wall Street [dradadaTISH]

          • Obligatory car analogy: If you get food poisoning at a restaurant, it's the restaurant who is liable, not the shithead who sold them defrosted prawns as fresh ones. Or should I say directly liable, i.e. to you; should you sue the restaurant, they can probably charge the vendor in turn.

            When I first read your "car" analogy, I thought, where the hell is the car? But then I thought, how did you get to the restaurant in the first place? *BAM*, you drove. So there is an implied car. Very sneaky.

            I think this is the first example of an implied car analogy. Maybe you should patent that or something.

            • Nice to see someone's awake. One time I couldn't think of a car analogy to save my life so I came up with one about a building. Nobody called it.

              The answer would have been that the building was a garage.

            • Nice to see someone's awake. One time I couldn't think of a car analogy to save my life so I came up with one about a building. Nobody called it.

              The answer would have been, of course, that the building was a garage.

          • by ganjadude (952775)
            actually hog if you read the entire post I made over again, you will see I agree with you. I was agreeing that they have a choice, I was also pointing out that the consumer has a choice whether or not to do business with said company. You were attacking the part of my comment that was only used to set up the rest of my comment..that agrees with what you said
        • by Solandri (704621)

          they can choose to use suppliers who do not pollute, and people can decide not to shop with a company that uses suppliers who pollute.

          Which puts them at a competitive disadvantage [wikipedia.org] against companies/people who decide to ignore the pollution and shop there or use suppliers from there anyway. Which causes such conscientious companies/people to diminish in economic size, thus rendering their ecological stance moot. Which is why government has to step in and establish environmental regulatory standards.

          Whi

          • The somewhat easy answer (well, not really easy), is for countries such as the US to ban the import of goods made in countries (or even by companies) not up to a specific environmental standard.

            Enforcement would be extremely difficult, to impossible, but it would prevent most of the large scale environmental problems (a large factory could not pollute egregiously since they would be noticed and caught). Small scale skirting of the regulations would continue and be mostly impossible to stop (but what you co

            • by DJRumpy (1345787)

              In this case not really, since the rare earths required come almost unilaterally from China you would be unable to get them anywhere else. I have to agree that it is the responsibility of China's government to ensure that factories comply with pollution laws. I also think it's a good thing that Apple is willing to work with specific vendors and require them to report their waste emissions. Apple has switched vendors in the past for vendors with poor working conditions so they at least attempt to be good cor

        • by steelfood (895457)

          There are two issues in order for such a choice to be possible:

          1) People have to know that the parts suppliers are commiting such environmental atrocities.

          2) Comparable products whose manfacturing processes are not so damaging to the environment must be priced within reason.

          #1 is possible, but unlikely. It's easy to get around public scrutiny by going through shell companies and such. #2 is one major reason inflation has been at a all-time low over the past 12-15 years. The cost of doing this would normaliz

      • Sweet. I just got absolved for wearing sweat-shop made clothing.
      • by Ogive17 (691899)
        For what Apple charges for their products, I would at least expect them to be more responsible with their supply base.
      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by joocemann (1273720) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:49PM (#38090264)

        I disagree.

        The distance that contracting places between a company and its actions is not so great a distance as compared to the company having done it themselves. Surely we could bounce analogies back and forth about cause, effect, demand, action, outsourcing, exploitative employ, etc etc...

        But in the end it really comes down to this: Apple (and many other businesses) are directly responsible for contracting with firms that are known environmental abusers. The use of outsourced contracts may give the appearance of a distance from responsibility, but the actual real fact is that from start to finish, the product was made by dirty methods and they have known it all along. Its not like middle school children and high school dropouts don't already know what conditions these factories produce --- (now sarcasm) but oh, no, there is no way someone at Apple could have guessed it.... Yeah right... *roll eyes*

        A company can have subsidiaries, or direct outsourcing, or whatever.... They are still part of it, if not the main cause of it. The same goes for US companies selling toys manufactured in China that have heavy metals in the paints and harm our kids... If you ask them to make your product, but you've got no questions, or tests, or safeguards, and even though everything about the history of similar chinese manufacturing tells you it is dirty (like I said, even young teens know this fact), its YOUR fault that its dirty when you sold it.

        Analogy for you analogizers: If I sell food, and it turns out the people growing it are being tortured to produce it nearly for free, yet I have been sourcing the food from a place where slavery and torture is widely understood to happen, there is hardly a distance you can place between me and the fact that my food comes from said place with said problems.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          Don't forget the consumers that turn a blind eye and focus on whatever is cheapest. There's plenty of blame to go around.

          That said, it would be nice if extremely profitable companies like Apple could push standards and enforce them. They have the leverage. It would also make for good marketing.

          • by DM9290 (797337)

            Don't forget the consumers that turn a blind eye and focus on whatever is cheapest. There's plenty of blame to go around.

            That said, it would be nice if extremely profitable companies like Apple could push standards and enforce them. They have the leverage. It would also make for good marketing.

            Sadly marketing is the ONLY legal justification that companies like Apple can push standards and enforce them. Anything a corporation does must legally be for the purpose of boosting profit. The directors have a legal duty only to boost shareholder's bottom line to the maximum possible extent allowed by law, and nothing else.

            Will people pay 50% more for actually clean products if cheap polluting alternatives are available that have pictures of trees and flowers on the box?

            Consumers do not have time to res

        • What if the only suppliers available are dirty? Choose not to make the product? Right!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ktappe (747125)

        Actually, Apple and other manufacturers are NOT responsible for their SUPPLIERS' mishaps.

        Anyone who is able to improve things and opts not to is responsible.

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by coinreturn (617535) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:22PM (#38094028)

          Actually, Apple and other manufacturers are NOT responsible for their SUPPLIERS' mishaps.

          Anyone who is able to improve things and opts not to is responsible.

          So it's your fault. You could take your entire net worth, liquidate it and go to China and help clean up the pollution yourself.

      • Actually, Apple and other manufacturers are NOT responsible for their SUPPLIERS' mishaps.

        Sure they are. Apple has almost certainly been sued for problems that are/were caused by their suppliers. Apple chooses who they want to do business with and as a result bears at least some responsibility for the actions of their suppliers. While it is unrealistic to expect Apple to be responsible for every action of their suppliers, they most definitely are responsible for some of them. The supplier and Apple share responsibility for the products they jointly create AND any by-products or problems they

      • by mug funky (910186)

        the vendor controls the invisible hand. they need to use it to bitch-slap suppliers more, rather than simply giving the cheapest supplier an invisible hand job.

        • the vendor controls the invisible hand. they need to use it to bitch-slap suppliers more, rather than simply giving the cheapest supplier an invisible hand job.

          I utterly agree. My point was only that the invisible hand is not to blame. I whole-heartedly support any necessary bitch-slapping.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        That's about as convincing as a CEO claiming that he wasn't responsible for his own company's pollution, because he told his subordinates to follow the law. It isn't enough for somebody in power to tell the people they employ to follow the law - they must do due diligence to ensure they are doing so.

        Or, consider a factory that hires a bunch of people for $10/hr and tells them to open/pack boxes/etc. The 5 slowest people each week lose their jobs, but the rule is that you have to wear your safety gear and

        • What color is the sky in your world? Apple has little power in changing the way things are done over there except to bring light to them, as they are doing. They cannot force the suppliers to follow local laws. As a customer, yes they are enabling the problem, but they are not to BLAME, your weak analogies notwithstanding.
      • Actually, Apple and other manufacturers are NOT responsible for their SUPPLIERS' mishaps.

        You should be a politician.

        a) A "mishap" is something not done intentionally or consistently. That is not the case here.

        b) If you really believe there's no downstream responsibility, then you also believe consumers bear no responsibility for buying sweat-shop-labour products, limiting use of plastic bags, etc.

        Perhaps you also think - to take it to its logical conclusion - that you, as a "consumer" (not citizen, not person - consumer) have an inalienable right to be provided with whatever you want to buy, devoid of responsibility of your actions, so you can go through life prioritising money over everything, with no thought to how your spending, burning and disposing affects anyone or anything else.

        • Actually, Apple and other manufacturers are NOT responsible for their SUPPLIERS' mishaps.

          You should be a politician.

          a) A "mishap" is something not done intentionally or consistently. That is not the case here.

          b) If you really believe there's no downstream responsibility, then you also believe consumers bear no responsibility for buying sweat-shop-labour products, limiting use of plastic bags, etc.

          Perhaps you also think - to take it to its logical conclusion - that you, as a "consumer" (not citizen, not person - consumer) have an inalienable right to be provided with whatever you want to buy, devoid of responsibility of your actions, so you can go through life prioritising money over everything, with no thought to how your spending, burning and disposing affects anyone or anything else.

          No, I believe no such thing. Apple has no weight of law in a foreign country. They cannot command or force foreign suppliers to follow the law. They can only bring things to light, as they obviously are.

      • As Apple's ecosystem is mostly a Walled Garden (tm, patent pending), I think it is only fair if they'd be forced to keep their pollution also within those walls.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:13PM (#38090544)

      The real problem is the macroeconomics of the matter. Jobs' built state of the art factories for both the original Mac and NeXT [cnn.com] in the US. Both failed to return on their investment. At least Apple cares enough, wether it's due to concern for their image or genuine concern, to investigate and ameliorate conditions where possible. Most companies don't.

    • Exactly. I'm sure this helps draw attention when people claim its Apple but even if Apple were to completely clean up everything within its own factories and its suppliers you still have dozens if not hundreds of other companies doing the same thing.
    • Yes, the sad part is that China knows all about which plants are the worst as they too get pay offs, unless a plant is not paying, then they become fodder to be used to show the world that China is doing a clean up...just like in the US, my GF is in textile and sells to Walmart, I have heard countless stories of when they go over there to review the goods, of what they see, and it is sickening that is it 1) so blatant, 2) the gov just does not care as long as they make their profit
      3) People being taken adva

  • Possible Connection? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:09PM (#38089744) Journal

    Apple reportedly sent five employees to meet with five different Chinese environmental groups on Nov. 15, only to learn about several troubling environmental issues at as many as 22 different product parts suppliers.

    Huh, that's odd, it was back in September when Apple outright rejected these claims [cnn.com]. Perhaps Apple is free to conduct investigations with the passing of a certain misanthrope [weknowmemes.com]?

    • by meustrus (1588597)
      After reading what Steve Jobs has to say about education reform, [washington...endent.com] it suddenly made sense that he's actually a soul-crushingly ambivalent-to-human-rights modern businessman, not the LSD revering environmentalist hippy that was more his image.
    • Or it could be because the Chinese government shut down one of its suppliers. If their shipment schedule slips because of that, they'll have to report it to the press and to their shareholders.

      Also, it could just be that the Chinese government could shut down more factories if these problems aren't addressed. At the very least, Apple should try to select suppliers that are not going to get shut down, or if they risk getting shut down, Apple should try to get them up to code as soon as possible. After all,

  • Apple makes a big deal about how environmentally friendly their laptop lineup is. Maybe the non-environmentally friendly stuff just stays on the other side of the ocean, somewhere where we'll never hear about it.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Apple isn't the only company that calls a product "green" as long as the pollution takes place on the other side of the world. Google "china" and "mercury poisoning".

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      I think they're only referring to the other side of the equation, i.e. disposal. Environmental groups took Apple to task over this a while back, and they responded with some kind of recycling initiative (to what extent, I'm not certain.)

  • Article is Troll (Score:2, Insightful)

    by coinreturn (617535)

    this is the first time Apple has admitted any wrongdoing in relation to environmental pollution from any of its Chinese supply chains

    Blaming the user of the components (Apple) is virtually the same as blaming the end-user (consumers). It is NOT Apple's fault China has lax compliance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is Apple's fault for hiring companies in China knowing that they do massive polluting. It's not like its a big secret that China does massive polluting with their industrial sector.

    • by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:25PM (#38089970) Journal

      I'd argue that the end-users are at fault just as much. It's hardly been a secret that the iphone you buy was manufactured by smog factories and assembled by slave labor.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:33PM (#38090066)

        It's hardly been a secret that the iphone you buy was manufactured by smog factories and assembled by slave labor.

        Dude, it's only "Designed" in California.

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          What, you mean there isn't a big tastefully designed white and chrome machine in Cupertino that turns fairy dust into iphones?

          (Where do they find the fairies, and do they shake them or just stuff them into the hopper?)

      • in the USA by union labor.

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          Ok, good point. I have an Android phone. I think the difference is that I'm not standing in line outside the AT&T store for new hardware whenever the manufacturer makes a carefully timed, incremental improvement. It's not the hardware itself (I need a cell phone for my job) but the wasteful culture of dumping your product every few months for a slightly better one, that's the real problem. And the worst offenders are Apple fanbois. Tell me this isn't true.

          I tend to keep a phone until it stops worki

    • by M. Baranczak (726671) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:26PM (#38089978)

      Bullshit. They knew that China's environmental regulations are a joke, and they still chose to have their hardware manufactured there. The pollution must be REALLY bad if the Chinese govt is actually doing something about it.

      • Bullshit. They knew that China's environmental regulations are a joke, and they still chose to have their hardware manufactured there. The pollution must be REALLY bad if the Chinese govt is actually doing something about it.

        And every other fucking manufacturer who uses China as a supplier - that's fucking everybody, you know.

    • "Due diligence"

      • "Due diligence"

        Those are two words that I'm so sick of hearing. They've got Dilbert written all over them. Fact: manufacturing is in China for fucking everything. Note that Apple is looking into it to protect their image, but they don't have to and can't be held to blame (legally, anyway) for a supplier's alleged violations.

    • Well... it could well be that Apple or other hardware buyers low-bidding the Chinese manufacturers [china.org.cn].

      Edy Jianto, general manager at Flextronics Electronics Technology (Suzhou) Co Ltd, estimated that many multinational companies enjoy a gross profit margin of between 50 to 60 percent while Chinese contract manufacturers have an average margin of around 3 percent.

      Do you think you will place much emphasize in environment and labor conditions if your margin is only 3% and wouldn't you try to do whatever you can to circumvent the Chinese environmental and labor laws?.

      • Well... it could well be that Apple or other hardware buyers low-bidding the Chinese manufacturers [china.org.cn].

        Edy Jianto, general manager at Flextronics Electronics Technology (Suzhou) Co Ltd, estimated that many multinational companies enjoy a gross profit margin of between 50 to 60 percent while Chinese contract manufacturers have an average margin of around 3 percent.

        Do you think you will place much emphasize in environment and labor conditions if your margin is only 3% and wouldn't you try to do whatever you can to circumvent the Chinese environmental and labor laws?.

        I'm not surprised at all. I think it's a major problem. I just think that blaming the customer is not the way to go. The polluter should be in trouble - and maybe their prices go up as a result.

  • When you see 7,000 people camped outside a store for 2 days waiting to get their grubby little paws on the latest gadget (apple, android, pc, xbox, whatever) it's a clear sign that people have Too Much (tm).

    When people have Too Much (excess) there is senseless waste. It's the waste which drives the demand which drives the pollution. It's not just China. It's not just Apple. It's manufacturers responding to a demand.

  • by HarrySquatter (1698416) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:26PM (#38089982)

    this is the first time Apple has admitted any wrongdoing in relation to environmental pollution from any of its Chinese supply chains.

    Thus is also the first time they've admitted that they will stop beating their wife. Even if Apple has some "wrongdoing" to admit at.least they are doing something unlike Dell, Logitech, HP, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, AMD, Acer, Toshiba, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Cisco, Nintendo, Sony, Nokia, MSI, Vizio, Samsung, HTC, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc.(the list can go on) who have yet to admit their wrongdoings since they use the same suppliers.

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:27PM (#38089990) Homepage Journal
    Cripes, you go to all of the trouble to find the place with the loosest/most poorly enforced regulatory structure, and then suddenly the government pulls a bait and switch and starts caring about the massive toll all of it is having on the population. It's a real pain to go and find some new place where they don't care about their citizens. The modern world is a libertarian nightmare.
  • by monkeyhybrid (1677192) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:50PM (#38090278)
    If Apple are guilty of anything here, then so are the consumers of Apple products. And seeing as a large percentage of other products we buy from countless other manufacturers probably have parts manufactured in similar factories and in similar conditions, that makes pretty much all of us guilty.
    • "If Apple are guilty of anything here, then so are the consumers of Apple products."

      Not quite, the enlightenment and the free market theory that was spawned from the enlightenment thinkers were based on false views of how the human mind operates, see here:

      http://bit.ly/dYaWUc [bit.ly]

    • by yabos (719499)
      Yeah but if you are going to stay away from all electronics made in China or similarly lax countries then you won't have any electronics. It's completely impossible to buy any "consumer" grade electronics that aren't made in one of those places. Even paying $50 for a dress shirt gets you something made in China, Bangalore, *insert other crap hole*... How much do we have to pay for something made in North America? That $50 dress shirt would be $100+ if made here and who can afford that?

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