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Apple's China Supplier List Aids Environment, Group Says

A Chinese environmental group that criticized Apple Inc. for not co-operating on efforts to rein in pollution at suppliers said the company has become more transparent, after the group won a role to audit operations at a supplier to the iPhone maker.

Apple’s decision to list its manufacturing partners for the first time in January has made it easier for environmental groups to obtain information from suppliers, Shen Xunan, a project officer at the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs in Beijing, said by phone today. Carolyn Wu, Apple’s spokeswoman in Beijing, declined to comment on the company’s environmental practices beyond information on its website.

Apple has stepped up environmental monitoring of suppliers, after criticism from the institute and other pressure groups in China, the company’s biggest market outside the U.S. Pollution caused by suppliers making Apple’s products “greatly endangers” public health and safety, the institute said in an August report.

“We are happy Apple is now opening its door,” Shen said. Previously, Apple’s refusal to disclose its manufacturing partners made it difficult for the institute to demand improvements at the suppliers, she said. The institute will participate in an audit of a supplier to Apple in the coming weeks, she said, declining to name the company.

Apple released a list of 156 companies that represent 97 percent of procurement costs in January, when it became the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association. The Washington-based rights group was given permission to inspect working conditions at suppliers’ factories. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visited an iPhone production facility at Foxconn Technology Group, Apple’s largest contract manufacturer, during a visit to China last month.

Apple conducted focused audits at 14 sites in 2011, examining facilities for wastewater management, air-emissions handling and solid-waste disposal, according to its website. The Cupertino, California-based company said it’s working with government agencies and non-government organizations to improve environmental practices.

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