Apple and a Chinese environmental group for the first time plan to jointly audit one of the company's supplier factories in China, in what could lead to more open inspections of Apple's suppliers for pollution concerns. The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), a group based in Beijing, said on Monday that Apple agreed to the joint audit, which will be carried out at the end of this month at a manufacturer of printed circuit boards.
IPE will be working with Apple and an auditing firm hired to investigate the supplier's pollution controls, said Wang Jing Jing, vice director for the Chinese environmental group. The results will later be made available online by IPE.
The audit is only a pilot project meant for one supplier factory at this point. But the environmental group hopes Apple will agree to more joint audits in the future, Wang said. "We think this is a very positive step made by Apple," she said. "We hope this won't simply be a pilot project, but that more open inspections will continue."
IPE and other Chinese environmental groups have criticized Apple for allegedly failing to stop the environmental damage caused by its suppliers in China. But last year, Apple held discussions with the groups to address the concerns, according to IPE. Apple decided to hire a third-party auditing firm to investigate some of its suppliers, but the results were not fully shared with the public, Wang said. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. tech giant already releases an annual progress report, detailing how Apple is correcting working conditions and environmental violations by its suppliers' factories . Earlier this year the company for the first time also released the names of its suppliers.
In recent months, Apple has faced negative publicity over the alleged poor working conditions at its factories. In response, the company agreed to allow the Fair Labor Association to conduct an audit of Apple supplier Foxconn. The results were later made available online.