Apple CEO Tim Cook is currently speaking at Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, and no time was wasted asking about the working conditions of the company's suppliers — which has been an especially hot topic as of late. Cook stressed monthly reports that will be available on its website and then discussed specific concerns —underage employment and other "problems endemic to our industry" like excessive overtime. He said that Apple has began to manage working hours at a "very micro basis" and that in January there was 84 percent compliancy.
Speaking to the underage concern, Cook called the practice "abhorrent" and "extremely rare" in its supply chain, adding that its his top priority to eliminate it entirely. "If we find a supplier that intentionally hires underage labor it's a firing offense," he said. The Fair Labor Association audit is still reportedly ongoing.
The full transcript is below, with non-verbatim statements explicitly noted.
Apple takes working conditions very, very seriously, and we have for a very long time. Whether the workers are in Europe or Asia or the United States, we care about every worker. I've spent a lot of time in factories personally, and not just as an executive." [A paper Mill in Alabama. Aluminum in Virginia] "So we are very closely connected to the construction process and we understand working conditions on a very granular level. I realize that supply chain is complex... and the issue surrounding this is complex. But our commitment is very simple. We believe that every worker has a right to a fair and safe work environment free of discrimination where they can earn competitive wages and they can voice their concerns freely. Apple suppliers must live up to this to do business with Apple.
"We also believe that education is the great equalizer. And that is, if people are provided the skills or knowledge, they can improve their lives. We've put a lot of effort [in providing education]." [Free classes and partnered with local colleges.] "More than 60,000 employees have attended these classes, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. if you could take all these employees and move them in one location, it would be a campus larger than Arizona State [the largest public university in the US]. Many of these workers go on to earn Associate's degrees. This is a very powerful stepping stone for people looking to advance careers and their lives.
"In terms of problems we're working to fix, you can read the details on our website, but I can tell you that no one in our industry is doing more to improving working conditions than Apple." [Constantly auditing, looking for problems, finding problems, fixing problems. "[Reporting everything] because we believe transparency is so very important in this area. I am so incredibly proud of the work our teams are doing in this area. They focus on the most difficult problem and they stay with them until they fix them. They're truly a model for the industry.
"Let me give you some examples because I think this is so important and topical, both in large and small. We think the use of underage labor is abhorrent. It's extremely rare in our supply chain, but our top priority is to eliminate it totally. We've done that with our final assembly and are working on down the supply chain. If we find a supplier that intentionally hires underage labor it's a firing offense. We don't let anyone cut corners on safety. There's a production process that can be made safer, we seek out the foremost authorities, foremost experts, and cut out a new standard, and take that and apply it to the supply chain. We focus on the details. If there's a fire extinguisher missing from the cafeteria, then that facility doesn't pass inspection until that fire extinguisher is in place.
"Continuing to focusing on the problems endemic to our industry like excessive overtime. Our code of conduct has a cap of 60 hours per work week, but we've consistently found violations to this code over the course of our time. So the beginning of this year, we announced that we're determined to drive widespread change and we've begun to manage working hours at a very micro basis. An example, in January, we collected weekly data on over a half million workers in our supply chain, and we had 84 percent compliant. This is significantly improved from the past, but we can do better. And we're taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website so that it's transparent to everyone what we're doing. As you probably know, the Fair Labor Association began a major audit at our request. We started working with the FLA ... and just in January, we were the first tech company ever admitted to their association. The audit they're conducting is probably the most detailed factory audit in the history of mass... in scale, in scope, and in transparency, and I am looking forward to seeing the results.
"We know that people have a very high expectation of Apple. We have an even higher expectation of ourselves. Our customers expect us to lead and we will continue to do so. We have the smartest and most innovative people on earth, and we put the same kind of effort and energy into supply responsibility as we do with our new product. That is what Apple is all about. "