Apple wins Stop Slavery Award, touts new initiative to hire human trafficking victims at retail stores

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Apple on Wednesday was granted the Thomson Reuters Foundation's Stop Slavery Award, and to coincide with the honor announced a new initiative that will assist victims of human trafficking get behind-the-scenes jobs at its retail stores.

Apple is partnering with non-governmental organization (NGO) International Organization for Migration on the initiative that helps victims pass interviews for roles such as caretaker and landscaper. Those enrolled in the program will not be revealed to Apple and new hires are processed through partner suppliers, though the tech giant intends to monitor the success of the program directly.

The initiative is already underway and a few people have been employed through the process, according to the BBC.

Angela Ahrendts spoke of the initiative in accepting the Stop Slavery Award in London. The award recognizes Apple's efforts in fighting poor labor practices in its supply chain through robust auditing programs and annual progress reports.

"Though we have only just started, we see huge opportunity to be a beacon of hope for trafficking survivors integrating them into our retail team. These efforts are just a part of a broader set of initiatives to eliminate modern slavery from every part of our company, in every part of the world," Ahrendt's said during her acceptance speech. She also tweeted about the award.

This new endeavor is another step in the right direction for Apple, which has put many people-focused programs in place in recent years. Ahrendts highlighted a few, including audits to check for wrongful "recruitment fees" charged by some suppliers, banning contractors who don't repay such fees, sourcing materials more responsibly, and banning suppliers who force employees to work off debts.

Amnesty International, who has in the past been critical of Apple, has praised the companies efforts but insists it can still do more.

"While it shouldn't be necessary to reward companies for taking steps to stop slavery in their business, we should recognise that some companies, such as Apple, are doing more than others to be transparent about how they are tackling slavery in the supply chain. It could go further though," said Amnesty UK's business and human rights program director Peter Frankental. "Whilst it's commendable that Apple is investigating its cobalt supply chain, it's still failing to disclose all the human rights risks and abuses it finds."


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