ISS backs Apple shareholder proposal on forced labor

NEW YORK, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has urged investors at Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to vote for a resolution demanding greater transparency in the hardware maker’s efforts. to protect workers in its supply chain from forced labor.

Apple will hold its annual meeting of shareholders on March 4.

Apple and independent third parties audited the company’s global suppliers in 2020 and found no evidence of forced labor, according to its latest power of attorney filing. Apple also releases reports with information about protecting workers in its supply chain.

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But independent human rights investigators have reported that some Apple suppliers have participated in the Chinese government’s forced labor program in the Xinjiang region, “calling into question the effectiveness of these policies and procedures.” ISS said in a report to investors released on Tuesday.

A group of shareholders has asked Apple’s board to prepare a report on how the company is protecting supply chain workers from forced labor. The request covers the extent to which Apple has identified suppliers and contractors that pose a risk of forced labor, and how much Apple has taken action against.

“The overall dream is for Apple to put in place a much stronger set of policies and procedures, eliminating forced labor from its supply chain and adhering to its code of conduct which says it has zero tolerance for forced labor,” said Vicky Wyatt, campaign manager for SumOfUs, a group supporting the shareholder proposal.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission in December denied an effort by Apple to ignore the shareholder proposal. That same month, U.S. lawmakers passed a bill banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region due to forced labor concerns.

Apple declined to provide further details, but its attorney said the company rigorously assesses the labor and human rights risks associated with potential vendors before signing them.

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Reporting by Danielle Kaye; Editing by Richard Chang

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