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Whether in reaction to the BBC’s recent hit piece or not, Apple today released information about ethical changes they’re making to their supply chain. The upshot: they will no longer allow factories to engage in “bonded labor” recruiting, and they’ve dropped four smelters of minerals who refused to submit to sustainability audits.

The details come out of Apple’s Supplier Responsibility 2015 Progress Report, published online today. One of the ways that Apple’s suppliers bring in new workers is to pay third-party recruiting firms – and then charge new hires for the “recruitment fees,” which essentially puts the workers in debt before they work even an hour. To combat this, Apple explains that it forced its suppliers to pay back $3.96 million in those fees to over 4,500 such workers. And Apple didn’t stop there:

“In October 2014, Apple informed our suppliers that, starting in 2015, no worker employed on an Apple line could be charged any recruitment fees. This reduces the allowable fees from one month’s net wages to zero. And, as always, any supplier who uses bonded labor will have to repay all foreign contract workers in full for any fees paid.”

Additionally, Apple also launched an investigation to determine whether their smelters in Asia were using “conflict-free” minerals and practices. Four factories refused to be audited to determine their status, and as such, they were dropped from Apple’s supply chain.

In all, these changes aren’t necessarily going to change the world overnight. But the fact that Apple, one of the world’s largest and most successful tech companies, is pushing for this kind of accountability and these more ethical practices signals to other companies that skimping in these areas is not okay. It will still take some time for the rest of the tech sector to catch up – and there’s still plenty of work to be done on improving the supply chain to the point where workers are truly treated as ethically as possible. But this is a solid start, and that’s good news for the tech industry as a whole.

[Source: Apple via 9to5Mac]

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