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Apple OKs independent environmental audits of suppliers

Just yesterday, we reported on Apple's move to renewable energy at the Maiden, North Carolina data center and other facilities. Now USA Today is reporting that Apple has given the green light to begin independent environmental audits of the companies that make up the Apple supply chain.

Apple apparently decided to allow the audits after environmental groups including the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) documented several hazardous material leaks and the use of toxic chemicals at supplier facilities. According to Ma Jun, the founder of the IPE, Apple's decision came in January as a response to the reports.

Ma, who is one of China's leading environmentalists, noted that the audits may begin as early as March and will initially focus on two suppliers although the scope could expand to as many as 14 suppliers.

Apple wants to publicize the results of the independent review as soon as the suppliers have been given an opportunity to resolve issues, so the company is expected to disclose the names of those suppliers. Apple has already confirmed that it has contracts with seven suppliers named in IPE reports in 2011: Foxconn Technology, Meiko Electronics, Ibiden Electronics, Nan Ya Printed Circuit Board, Compeq Manufacturing, Wintek, and Unimicron.

Gary Liu, the deputy director of the China Europe International Business School's Lujiazui International Finance Research Center, said that Apple's audits are a step in the right direction for Chinese workers and the public. Liu was quoted as saying that "Apple now realizes that its brand name will suffer if it continues to be blind to the misbehaviors" of suppliers.

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