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Apple plans to phase out use of conflict minerals

Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Progress Report for 2014 is out and available to read on its official website, and one of the biggest headlines to take away from the publication is the company’s continuing commitment to phasing out the use of conflict minerals.

The term refers to mining operations that finance armed groups and human rights violations, and while no deadline has been set by Apple, the Guardian understands that the company hopes to have its supply chain cleaned up by the end of 2014. Apple has confirmed that its sources of the rare metal tantalum are now all conflict-free, and it hopes to be able to say the same about its tin, tungsten and gold in the months and years to come.

It’s not a straightforward process however, as Senior Vice-President of Operations Jeff Williams told the Financial Times: “The fastest way for Apple to become conflict-free would be to channel our demand through a couple of verified smelters. But quite honestly, if we did that, we could wave our conflict-free flag but it would do nothing to affect the workers on the ground. And so what we are focused on is getting a critical mass of suppliers verified such that we can truly influence the demand situation and change things.”

The 2014 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report also shows a drop in the number of cases of underage child labour that Apple identified (11 active cases as opposed to 106), while more than 97 percent of the logged working weeks at Apple’s suppliers met the minimum requirement of at least one day off in every seven.

The scope of the report has been widened this year to take in a broader range of environmental considerations, including waste disposal and responsible water usage. During 2013, an additional 1.5 million workers at Apple’s suppliers received free training on their rights.