What manufacturer in China isn’t polluting? China does have environmental laws and regulations on the books, mind you, but obviously there’s no enforcement and no incentive to follow them. Just as obviously, products are far less expensive to manufacture when pollution controls are not a factor. Ring that register!

Reports by the WSJ and others state that

Chinese regulators are scrutinizing two suppliers to Apple and other gadget makers following allegations by environmental groups that plants run by the two companies are pumping large amounts of toxic heavy metals into nearby rivers. …

One big question is, where’s Lisa Jackson on these matters? Former head of the EPA, Jackson is reported to now be Apple’s “vice president of environmental initiatives.” The WSJ article goes on the say that

An Apple spokeswoman said Apple has been working closely with suppliers and one of the environmental groups to ensure the company’s environmental standards are being met. Apple regularly audits its suppliers and doesn’t tolerate environmental violations, she added.

Notice the careful PR wording in the second sentence. She’s not saying Apple does environmental audits, just that it does audits. (Financial audits are done, of course, so this is not a lie.) In fact, there’s a very low probability that Apple does any such thing, as was made clear a while back when Apple was embroiled in workplace safety issues. Then, they hired a not-so-independent outfit to see to that issue, and back then I was saying that, while workplace safety was important, there are going to be pollution issues big-time that Apple needs to address if it is to truly be a good corporate citizen.

It will be interesting to see what Lisa Jackson has to say about all this. She’s one of the best-trained heads of EPA we’ve seen because she’s actually studied chemistry and is a chemical engineer by training.

My take is that Jackson is either going to get these suppliers in China to truly determine the exact nature (the chemical compounds and their mass emission rate) of what they are putting out into the air, water and land, as the first step toward implementing meaningful pollution control, or she’ll be submitting her resignation. Can Jackson and Apple clean up China? They sure do have an opportunity here to make a good start.


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