New boycott called on Apple products for toxic chemical use

Green America launches campaign to get two toxic chemicals out of Apple's supply chain

Green America, a D.C.-based non-profit group, and The Nation magazine launched a campaign Wednesday intended to persuade consumers to boycott Apple products unless the company makes changes in its production and supply chain operations.

The campaign is the latest in a string of attempts to get consumers to focus on worker conditions in the myriad of factories that makes Apple products such as iPhones and the components that go into them.

A key message of the campaign is that it would cost just $1 for Apple to substitute out benzene and n-hexane, two of the most toxic chemicals used in its supply chain. The figure was derived from asking industry insiders their "best guess" for the cost involved, said Elizabeth O'Connell, campaign director, Green America.

The campaign is also asking Apple to create a healthcare fund to pay for the care of workers who have fallen sick working on its products, allegedly due to poisoning from those two chemicals, and to generally improve working conditions.

And it's asking consumers to complete a protest letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and postpone purchases of Apple products until the company makes changes.

Apple products are some of the most popular in consumer electronics and its iPhone leads the smartphone sector, so getting users to click and send a protest letter might be a lot easier than persuading them to put off buying the next iPhone.

"We're hoping that those who are loyal Apple customers will still write to Apple to voice their concerns," said O'Connell. "We know from experience that once you get a certain amount of consumer pressure, the company will listen to that opinion."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple and its main iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, have been criticized for several years over the way workers are treated. The issue jumped to the forefront after a string of suicides at Foxconn factories and pushed Foxconn to pledge a change in the way workers live and are treated. Apple began highlighting the issue in its annual compliance report that also sets targets for its suppliers related to working conditions.

Apple's most recent Supplier Responsibility Report was published last month. It said Apple had conducted 451 audits of its suppliers in 2013.

During the year it dealt with another criticism it has faced in the past, with the verification that none of the tantalum metal used in its products comes from sources that fund armed groups in unstable parts of Africa.

Green America is a Washington, D.C., based non-profit organization. It's currently involved in major campaigns against GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and fossil fuel use in electricity power generation.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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Tags smartphonesAppleiPhoneenvironmentconsumer electronicsfoxconnElectronics manufacturingGreen America

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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