Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has announced that it will be auditing all the suppliers of the minerals used to make some of the components used in the company’s devices.
The firm describes the move as a ground-breaking move in supply chain transparency which will allow the company to deal with the issue of conflict minerals. Some of those minerals are connected with violent militia groups in the DRC. The company has been working towards distancing itself from the conflict minerals in an effort to make its products conflict-free. Apple announced that a third party called Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative will audit the 242 firms that melt and refine gold, titanium, tin and tungsten.
Apple’s announcement came just a few months after Amnesty International accused the iPhone maker together with a few other firms of using battery parts from a supplier that employs child labor. Apple had previously revealed in 2015 that 199 out of the 255 suppliers affected by the matter had been involved in the audit program. Getting all the firms to enroll in the program was not an easy task.
The company’s decision to increase the number of smelters and refiners in the conflict region instead of choosing a few approved ones also complicated the matter. Apple’s Supply chief Jeff Williams stated that if the company was to declare it conflict-free, it would have very little impact on operations. Instead, the firm decided to recruit suppliers in large numbers and some of them did not comply. Some of the suppliers were thrown out of the program because they failed to carry out the requirements in an appropriate manner.
Apple had to employ drastic measures including giving ultimatums so as to get all the suppliers on board. The firm stated that those who failed to participate in the audits would lose their supply contract with Apple. Thus selecting as many suppliers as possible was the only way to have a significant impact on the supply market. Apple claims that it has not yet declared itself conflict-free because there is still some degree of risk from smuggled minerals.