Foxconn management ‘saved lives’, says Apple report

Apple’s latest audit of its suppliers has found 37 ‘core violations’ of its code of conduct, up from 17 this time last year – but not to worry. Management at Foxconn, it says, ‘definitely saved lives’ during the spate of suicides at its Hon Hai plant.

The company promised action following the suicides – or, rather, the public outcry that accompanied them. And in its 2011 Supplier Responsibility report, it describes how it sent in a team of suicide experts which praised Foxconn for its reponse.

“The team commended Foxconn for taking quick action on several fronts simultaneously, including hiring a large number of psychological counselors, establishing a 24-hour care center, and even attaching large nets to the factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides,” reads the report.

“The independent team also found that Foxconn had worked openly with many outside experts and government officials in reacting to the crisis. Most important, the investigation found that Foxconn’s response had definitely saved lives.”

But in other areas, things don’t look quite so good. The report found that health and safety has actually decreased over the last year.

This will come as no surprise to the group of campaigning organizations which released a report, The Other Side of Apple, last month. This found that Apple was the least responsive IT company to concerns about health and safety, and raised questions over whether employees were being opoisoned by the n-hexane used for cleaning iPhone screens.

Apple says it’s since asked its suppliers to stop using the chemical.

What the company tastefully describes as ‘involuntary labor’ hasn’t improved either. In its latest report, the company uncovered 18 facilities where workers had been required to pay high recruitment feels, and ten where underage workers were employed. One – which hired 42 underage workers and ignored Apple’s complaints – has now had its relationship with the company terminated.

For the future, Apple’s promising to expand ‘social responsibility training’ and introduce more aggressive audits. It’s going to focus particularly on underage labor and worker happiness.