“At Apple, we are optimistic about technology’s awesome potential for good. But we know that it won’t happen on its own. Every day, we work to infuse the devices we make with the humanity that makes us.” These words are from Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, and are printed at the beginning of the corporation’s “Commitment to Human Rights” document. But while the tech giant touts its supposed steadfast commitment to protecting human rights, Apple has been widely criticized for various labor and human rights violations in its global supply chain. So what’s the truth about Apple’s record on human rights?
What does Apple claim?
In the first section of the document, titled “People Come First,” Apple states that the company’s “respect for human rights begins with our commitment to treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
“We believe in the power of technology to empower and connect people around the world— and that business can and should be a force for good. Achieving that takes innovation, hard work, and a focus on serving others,” the Big Tech company declares. “It also means leading with our values. Our human rights policy governs how we treat everyone—from our customers and teams to our business partners and people at every level of our supply chain.”
“With humility, optimism, and an abiding faith in people, we’re committed to respecting the human rights of everyone whose lives we touch,” the document adds.
In the following section, titled, “Our Commitment to Human Rights,” the company states that they’ve “worked hard to embed a respect for human rights across our company — in the technology we make, in the way we make it, and in how we treat people.”
Under a subheading “The Technology We Make,” Apple writes, “As a global technology company, we feel a deep sense of responsibility to make technology for people that respects their human rights, empowers them with useful tools and information, and enhances their overall quality of life.” According to the corporation, they achieve this by making “quality products, including content and services, available to our users in a way that respects their human rights.”
Under the next subheading, “The Way We Make It,” Apple continues, “Respect for human rights shapes how we make our products and services. Our responsibilities go beyond our stores and corporate offices: They extend to our supply chain, the communities we’re a part of, and the planet we all share.”
“Across our supply chain,” Apple claims, “we work hand in hand with our suppliers to ensure that every workplace provides a safe and respectful environment for everyone.”
“If a company is not willing or able to meet our high standards, we will no longer do business with them,” they state.
In the final sub-heading, “How We Treat People,” the Big Tech giant writes, “We’ve always said Apple’s soul is our people,” adding that’s why they are “committed to respecting the human rights of everyone whose lives we touch — including our employees, suppliers, contractors, and customers.”
“At Apple and throughout our supply chain, we prohibit harassment, discrimination, violence, and retaliation of any kind — and we have zero tolerance for violations motivated by any form of prejudice or bigotry,” the document adds.
Finally, in a section titled, “Our Commitment to International Human Rights Standards,” the company claims to be “deeply committed to respecting internationally recognized human rights in our business operations, as set out in the United Nations International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.”
“We conduct human rights due diligence to identify risks and work to mitigate them. We seek to remedy adverse impacts, track and measure our progress, and report our findings,” Apple concludes. “We believe that dialogue and engagement are the best ways to work toward building a better world. In keeping with the UN Guiding Principles, where national law and international human rights standards differ, we follow the higher standard. Where they are in conflict, we respect national law while seeking to respect the principles of internationally recognized human rights.”
What is the truth?
Apple has been widely criticized on multiple occasions for various labor and human rights violations in its global supply chain. In 2018, Newsweek reported that the number of such violations “doubled in the span of a year.” According to the company’s Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, several “core violations” were discovered “following an audit of the working conditions of its supply chain employees across 30 countries.”
“Abuses included labor violations, the falsification of working hours, harassment and underage staff. Apple conducted 756 audits in total and its report detailed some of the violations that were considered to be ‘serious breaches of compliance,’” noted Newsweek.
In December 2020, The Washington Post reported that “One of the oldest and most well-known iPhone suppliers has been accused of using forced Muslim labor in its factories,” according to documents discovered and shared by human rights group, Tech Transparency Project.
According to the exclusive report, “thousands of Uighur workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang were sent to work for Lens Technology.”
“Lens Technology is one of at least five companies connected to Apple’s supply chain that have now been linked to alleged forced labor from the Xinjiang region, according to human rights groups,” the Post noted.
Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, said that “Our research shows that Apple’s use of forced labor in its supply chain goes far beyond what the company has acknowledged.”
Earlier that month, Apple Insider reported that — despite saying that the corporation had “no evidence of human rights violations in a probe of its supply chain” — Apple cut ties with O-Film, “one of the firms accused of using forced labor.”
The issue of alleged forced labor in Apple’s supply chain appears to continue into 2021. According to The Information, as reported by The Verge, “the publication identified seven companies that supplied products or services to Apple and supported forced labor programs, according to statements made by the Chinese government,” adding that the programs “target the country’s Muslim minority population, particularly Uyghurs living in Xinjiang.”
According to The Information, Apple was supplied with “antennas, cables, and coatings, among other products and services” by these companies.
Accusations of human rights abuses are not limited to Asian supply chains. In May 2021, for example, Deseret News reported on a group of parents who are “part of a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court in Washington, D.C., in 2019 seeking to hold Apple” and other Big Tech companies “accountable for what they allege is profiting off the misery of child labor in their quest for cobalt,” after children reportedly died while “working the cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
While companies are pushing to have the case dismissed, the lawsuit “insists companies are simply turning a blind eye to the egregious abuses that include children killed in tunnel collapses or losing limbs or suffering from other horrific injuries caused by mining accidents.”
“Cobalt is a key component of every rechargeable lithium-ion battery in all of the gadgets made by defendants and all other tech and electric car companies in the world,” the suit explains.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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