Apple to allow independent environmental audits of its supply chain

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Apple has signaled that it plans to allow independent environmental audits of factories run by its component suppliers in China, where environmental groups claim toxic chemicals are being used.

Apple agreed to the independent audits in late January, Ma Jun, founder of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, told USA Today. The iPhone maker reportedly decided to allow the audits after environmental groups documented hazardous waste leaks and the use of toxic chemicals at suspected Apple suppliers.

The reviews will begin as soon as March, and will involve two of Apple's 14 suppliers that the company itself did environmental audits on last year. But the new, independent audits could expand to even more of Apple's partners in China in the future.

The independent reviews will reportedly focus on various environmental issues, and aim to address whether Apple's suppliers are in fact discharging toxic waste.

Last year's IPE report, which made the original allegations about toxic waste, accused Apple of working with 24 different companies. Apple has confirmed it works with at least seven of them, including Foxconn and Wintek.

In addition to the audits, Apple also indicated to Ma that the company will rely on a pollution database on the IPE's website to monitor its supply chain partners.

The news comes a day after Apple updated its environmental website to reflect the company's green initiatives for power at its new data center in Maiden, N.C. That center will be aided by a 20-megawatt, 100-acre solar farm, as well as a5-megawatt fuel cell installation. The center itself is the only in its class to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

The environmental audits will be in addition to the worker-centric reviews currently underway by the Fair Labor Association. The FLA has been touring Foxconn's Chinese facilities to investigate claims of low wages and forced overtime in Apple's supply chain.