Apple just did something unprecedented: It released the names of all 150+ of its suppliers after several news stories — including a damning report from Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life — painted an unflattering picture of how the company’s suppliers treat their workers.
Why is this a big deal? The fact that nobody knew who Apple’s suppliers were meant two things:
First, it limited Apple’s bad PR to the few suppliers people knew about, like Foxconn. Apple did publish reports on internal audits, but the fact that its suppliers were kept secret meant the press couldn’t follow up with their own investigations. It’s almost certain that Apple will face increased scrutiny if stories of worker suicides and other labor issues start surfacing about other factories where Apple parts are made.
Cupertino was also extremely protective of this information because the press keeps a close eye on each factory for hints about future products like the rumored iPad 3. Now every order for a camera part or piece of touchscreen glass will be combed over for clues about Apple’s intentions.
The list comes as part of Apple’s Supplier Responsibility progress report for 2012, in which the company discloses it conducted 229 audits throughout its supply chain in 2011 — an 80% increase from the year before.
One of the most disturbing allegations from the This American Life segment was that Apple’s suppliers were using underaged labor. Apple eventually confirmed they did find some instances of underaged labor amounting to six active and 13 past incidents in five different facilities.