Apple triples supplier sites enrolled in energy efficiency programme

Apple has tripled the number of supplier sites listed in its energy efficiency programme aimed at reducing onsite emissions, and has also introduced a "first-of-its-kind" risk assessment tool covering supply chain risks related to material sourcing, environmental impact and health and safety.

The company’s latest Supplier Responsibility Report revealed that more than 700 suppliers were audited in 2016 across more than 500 data points, with the number of high-performing sites increasing by 59% and low-performing sites decreasing by 31%. Apple revealed that nearly 30% of assessments involved new suppliers.

For 2016, the number of supplier sites supported through Apple’s energy efficiency programme tripled, resulting in the reduction of more than 150,000 metric tonnes of carbon. Apple suppliers also achieved a 100% zero waste to landfill validation from inspectors UL in assembly sites in China for the first time.

“Ultimately, our goal is to equip our suppliers with the capability to one day independently uphold all labor and human rights protections, and maintain effective health, safety, and environmental practices in their own operations,” the report states.

“By holding our suppliers accountable to the highest standards and partnering with them to make lasting change, we remain steadfast in our commitment to improve lives and protect the environment.”

Apple also reached other impressive milestones during 2016. The firm’s responsible sourcing efforts have been expanded beyond conflict minerals to include cobalt. For the second year running, 100% of Apple’s tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold smelters and refiners participated in independent third-party auditing.

For 2016, Apply helped suppliers establish a 35% average water reuse rate across 86 sites as part of its Clean Water Programme. Since its inception in 2013, the programme has seen suppliers conserve more than 3.8bn gallons of water.

Total waste volumes diverted from landfill more than doubled year-on-year in Apple’s supply chain, and 15 China-based sites were certified by third-party audits as zero waste compared to just one in 2015.

Risk Readiness Assessment

Apple also expanded its supplier monitoring to cover more low and medium performers through a Subject Matter Expert (SME) programme. It covered 138 suppliers in 2016 and the facilities that were assessed through the programme saw their environmental scores increase from 67 to 87 out of 100.

The tech company revealed that no existing toolset was “flexible enough to assess the diverse set of risks” that are monitored within its supplies. This led to the creation of Apple’s own risk assessment tool that was sourced from more than 50 of the world’s leading social and environmental risk standards.

The tool, dubbed the Risk Readiness Assessment (RRA), was used by 193 sites in 2016 to highlight systemic risk on a geographic basis, assess human rights and environmental threats and drive procurement decisions. The RRA has become mandatory for conflict mineral smelters and refiners in 2017 and will be made available for all firms that are part of the EICC’s Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative.

The 2015 version of the report focused on ethics and transparency in the supply chain, which Apple was keen to enhance further last year. The company achieved the top score in the Corporate Information Transparency Index (CITI), produced by the Chinese non-profit Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), for the third year running.

Improved transparency has seen Apply identify and solve 196 environmental issues since 2012, including 23 last year. In these cases, the IPE directed supervised third-party validation of the improvements. All suppliers involved in these issues continue to share environmental monitoring data through the IPE platform.

Earlier this month, component supplier Ibiden became the first company based in Japan to pledge to powering all of its Apple manufacturing facilities with 100% renewable energy. Today’s report reaffirms Apple’s commitment to install more than 4GW of new clean energy worldwide by 2020.

According to Apple, “a number of large suppliers have already committed to power all Apple manufacturing with renewable energy by the end of 2018”. It is expected that these commitments will reduce supply chain emissions by seven million metric tonnes annually.

Matt Mace

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