Apple has asked the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit labor group, to conduct special audits of the Chinese factories where Apple’s iPads, iPods and other products are manufactured.
The organization began its inspections today at the Foxconn facilities in Shenzen, China, a massive supplier that has been the subject of a series of recent exposes about inhuman working conditions.
“The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in statement.
So Apple is not only asking an independent organization to look at the working conditions, compensation and hours of its suppliers' employees, it is permitting them to single out specific factories that have been negligent.
If anyone wonders what oversight the FLA has over Chinese factories, Apple said its suppliers have “pledged full cooperation […] offering unrestricted access to their operations.”
Apple has conducted annual internal audits since 2007 that served as the foundation for recent incendiary reports in both the New York Times and on NPR.
According to said reports, workers have been subject to excessive hours, horrid living conditions and exposure to toxic chemicals.
Cook condemned reports for suggesting that Apple has been negligent and did not care about working conditions.
In the wake of the reports, numerous online petitions cropped up demanding that Apple respond and better regulate the situation in its factories. One, started by Washington D.C.-resident Mark Shields, has drawn more than 200,000 signatures.
Shields' petition included a request that Apple turn to the FLA, which it has now done.
Foxconn, which also supplies major companies such as Dell and IBM, has been a particular target of scorn. However, Apple has asked the FLA to inspect other factories as well.
While human rights activists and some customers worry about Apple's human rights record, the company has continued to excel on the business side. Its share price topped $500 for the first time Monday.