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Apple targeted in China pollution, work safety report

Japan firm unveils high-strength gadget glass
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 20, 2011 - Japan's Asahi Glass Co. on Thursday unveiled a highly durable cover glass for smartphones and tablet computers and said it aimed to grab a 30 percent global share in the highly competitive market. Asahi said that its new glass, called Dragontrail, is chemically strengthened to be six times stronger than conventional glass currently used as covers for mobile gadgets and flat-panel TVs, and is difficult to damage. The cover glass on a device such as a smartphone is the outer glass layer protecting inner layers, such as touchscreen glass, from damage. Asahi said it aims to generate at least 30 billion yen ($365 million) in sales next year. The company added that Dragontrail is already used in some mobile gadgets but did not specify the gadgets or whom it supplies. Asahi's new product indicates how glass makers worldwide are looking to benefit from demand generated by the popularity of touchscreen devices led by Apple's hugely popular iPhone and iPad tablet computer and their many rivals.
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Jan 20, 2011
Chinese environmental groups on Thursday singled out Apple for failing to tackle concerns over pollution and the health of workers at plants making parts for trendy gadgets such as its iPhone.

In a new report, the groups said the US giant ranked last in a survey of how 29 multinational technology companies respond to inquiries about pollution and workplace health hazards at factories in their supply chain in China.

The study reflects over a year's work by more than 30 Chinese environmental NGOs to pressure multinational companies into being more accountable for their impact on the country's environment.

"Apple has broken its promise on three aspects of supply-chain social responsibilities," said the report, the main author of which is the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an independent Beijing-based organisation.

"On Apple's supply chain, some workers were poisoned and disabled, neighbourhoods and communities were polluted while there were severe infringement of workers' rights, interest and dignity," the report said.

It commends Hewlett-Packard, British telecoms operator BT, Alcatel-Lucent, Vodafone, Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp and Hitachi for taking some steps to change poor practices or step up supervision of manufacturing.

Apple was not the only company the report cited as failing to act or respond to concerns -- Nokia, LG, SingTel, Sony and Ericsson also fared poorly in the survey.

But the US company was the worst, the groups said, for "dodging" questions from the public and requests from environmental groups for investigations.

"You should educate yourself. We do more than any other company on the planet," the report quoted Apple chief executive Steve Jobs as writing in response to an Internet user's question about its social responsibility record.

Apple's website says it is committed to ensuring the highest standards of responsibility and insists suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and be environmentally responsible.

A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman with Apple on Thursday denied the claims made in the report.

"Apple has a vigorous auditing programme that investigates suppliers and other parts of the business chain. We audit throughout... We actually have had an extensive auditing programme since 2006," she told AFP.

China's emphasis on economic growth over the past three decades has led to notoriously lax workplace safety as well as widespread industrial pollution.

One incident the groups cited Apple for failing to address was the poisoning of 49 workers at Lianjian Technology, owned by Taiwan-based Wintek, which reportedly makes touchscreens for Apple.

The case was widely publicised in Chinese media last year when the workers were hospitalised after being exposed to the chemical cleaning agent n-hexane. Workers claimed Apple did not respond to their complaints, the report said.

"Some workers recalled that representatives from Apple had visited the factory, but they never told them n-hexane, which was used to increase the output and rate of qualified products for Apple, was toxic and harmful".

In response to enquiries about the incident by various labour rights groups, Apple only insisted it "will never disclose any information about suppliers," according to the report.

Apple's highest-profile supplier in China is Taiwan-owned high-tech giant Foxconn, whose treatment of its workers was put in the spotlight by a spate of suicides that saw at at least 13 mainland employees take their lives in 2010.

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Steve Jobs surrenders reins as Apple thrives
San Francisco (AFP) Jan 18, 2011
Legendary Apple Inc. chief Steve Jobs stepped aside on a high note as the company he saved from ruin raked in a blockbuster $6-billion profit amid unrelenting demand for iPhones and iPads. A day after Jobs announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence for medical reasons, Apple reported its record net profit as revenue soared to an unprecedented $26.74 billion in the quarter ending ... read more

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