Other areas of interest in this year's report include Apple's attempt to end excessive working hours: Over the course of 2013, Apple's suppliers averaged 95 percent compliance with the maximum of 60 working hours, up 3 percent from 2012. Apple's also expanded its Supplier Employee Education and Development (SEED) program, doubling the number of facilities in which it provides free education to employees; in 2013, the program saw 280,000 participants, raising the total to 480,000 participants since 2008. The company also launched an 18-month program to train employees in environment, health, and safety matters, to which it welcomed more than 240 participants representing more than 60 facilities; that program is due to expand in 2014.
Overall, Apple is proud of the progress it made in 2013, and says its Code of Conduct is stronger than ever. But it acknowledges that there's still a ways to go. "We know audits and followup action plans alone aren't enough to fix systemic issues," the company's report says. "As we go deeper into our supply chain to discover and correct problems, we also tackle root causes through training and specialized programs to bring about real change."
It's not just Apple tooting its own horn, either. In a statement, environmental activism group Greenpeace applauded Apple's progress, saying, "Apple's increased transparency about its suppliers is becoming a hallmark of Tim Cook's leadership at the company. Apple has flexed its muscles in the past to push suppliers to remove hazardous substances from products and provide more renewable energy for data centers, and it is proving the same model can work to reduce the use of conflict minerals. Samsung and other consumer electronics companies should follow Apple's example and map its suppliers, so the industry can exert its collective influence to build devices that are better for people and the planet."
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