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Chinese environmental group says Apple has 'changed a lot' since 2010

The head of a Chinese environmental group that has been a major critic of Apple has admitted the company has considerably improved its accountability over the last two years.

China's Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs has been critical of Apple, particularly following a report in 2010 that accused it along with 28 other companies of environmental problems. Among those 29 companies, Apple was the only one that did not respond.

But that changed after a new report last September, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple's new, more communicative approach has been met positively by Wang Ding, vice director for the IPE.

She spoke out this week after it was revealed that Apple will conduct a pollution audit of an unnamed supplier that makes printed circuit boards. Apple announced in February that it would allow independent environmental audits of factories run by its component suppliers in China.

"We think they have changed a lot, especially that they are opening up and allowing an audit like this," Ma said. "It's a good start and a good change, but we will watch closely to see what happens and if they maintain this more open attitude."

Apple met with Chinese environmental groups last November to discuss concerns they have had about pollution. Previously, some reports criticized Apple and accused the company of using loopholes in the system that led to excessive pollution.

Tim Cook at Foxconn

Apple's more open approach regarding its overseas suppliers has come under the watch of Tim Cook, who took over as the company's chief executive last August. Cook even went as far as to personally visit an iPhone assembly plant operated by Foxconn when he visited China in March.

In addition to the new environmental audits, Apple has also stepped up reviews of its suppliers with respect to workplace safety and workers' rights. Last month, an independent audit by the Fair Labor Association found a number of violations at Foxconn that the company vowed to fix.