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Apple stays quiet on environmental concerns in China

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Jeremy Hobson: Well we all know how secretive Apple likes to be. But this week, that’s causing problems for the company in China, where environmental groups have accused Apple suppliers of major pollution violations. Apple has hired an outside company to look into those charges.

But as Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai, the company isn’t saying much.

Rob Schmitz: Apple may be a lot of things, but few would call the company low-profile — unless you’re talking to Apple about their supply chain. That’s what environmentalist Li Li did this week.

Li Li: They just kept saying, “believe us that we will make it work. Our company is low profile. We have our own way of solving problems.”

Two months ago, she helped author a report. It alleged the suppliers that are making iPhones and iPads are blatantly violating pollution laws throughout China. She said Apple flew two Chinese-speaking members of its supply management team from the U.S. just for this meeting.

She’s not sure why Apple went to all the trouble, though. She said the only thing they admitted to was the number of suppliers they work with in China.

Li: I am not satisfied at all with what they said. We need them to disclose who their suppliers are. If they are unwilling to do that, then how do we know if they’re doing the right thing?

Apple says it provides safe working conditions and uses environmentally responsible manufacturing. But so far, this hasn’t held up to public scrutiny. After Apple admitted to poisoning 137 workers at one Chinese plant, it said it was monitoring their health. But several workers later said they had never heard from Apple.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

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