Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apple + China = Pollution & poisoning of workers

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Apple are having a tough time right now in China, as 36 Chinese environmental groups are accusing them of failing to address concerns over pollution and worker health issues in factories which supply components for their products.

A report, due to be published later today shows that the groups are putting Apple last in a list of 29 multinational technology companies based on how each of these companies deals with inquiries about pollution and occuptional health hazards at factories throughout their supply chain.

China have been ramping up their environmental awareness campaign in China and organisations are trying to draw attention to important social issues such as pollution.

The environmental group have been investigating and trying to improve practices at 29 multinationals over the last year.

The same groups list Hewlett Packard, Vodafone, BT, Sharp and Hitachi as taking proactive steps to improve the situation and that they responded to the inquires and subsequently took steps to improve working conditions for their employees.

Nokia, Sony and LG didn’t fare so well as they were said to be ‘unresponsive’ and not taking action to correct the problems. Apple however got the worst result, with the groups even claiming that they were ‘evasive’.

One of the more serious health hazard cases that Apple apparently didn’t respond to was the poisoning of workers at Lianjian Technology, a subsidiary of Taiwan based Wintek which is a producer of touchscreens for Apple mobile devices.

49 workers were sent to hospital and diagnosed as having been poisoned with the chemical cleaning agent n-hexane in 2009, a case which was very high profile in China. To make matters worse many of these employees have been left with serious illness and say they have not received any response from Apple after making complaints.

A Wintek spokesperson said that the factory immediately stopped using the cleaner and has improved conditions at their factories after this event.

“Apple behaved differently from the other big brands and seemed totally complacent and unresponsive,” said to Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

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