Apple says conditions at the factories where its iPhones and iPads are made have improved, but Greenpeace responded that the company should set a better example reporting on its suppliers.
“Apple’s latest Supplier Responsibility Progress Report certainly highlights the importance Apple is placing on improving its supply chain, but this year’s report lacks detail on where problems remain and how they plan to address these issues," Greenpeace said.
The environmental group acknowledged that policing supply chains is a "major challenge" for large manufacturers like Apple, but it called on the company to provide more clarity about how its suppliers are performing.
"We expect a leader like Apple to set a greater example for the industry,” Greenpeace said.
Still, Apple said it made progress last year with issues like safety, use of underpaid and underage workers, and worker rights at factories run by its suppliers in China and elsewhere.
Apple conducted a record 640 audits at suppliers' facilities in 2015. Only one facility was found employing under-aged labor, Apple said, down from six last year. It reported "significant progress" with suppliers meeting labor and human rights requirements.
Many pages in the report are devoted to case studies. One example shows Apple intervening to free a woman from what amounted to "bonded labor."
The feel-good stories highlight Apple's successes, but work remains on some environmental and safety issues, said Gary Cook, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace.
The report has a lot of high-level details but lacks some of the fine-grained reporting that Apple has shared in the past, he said.
Nor does the company talk about challenges it would like to address in the coming year, for which progress could be measured in next year's report.
"It's difficult to measure year-over-year progress, and where the problems and challenges lie and how they're trying to address them," Cook said
About 70 percent of Apple's carbon footprint is in its supply chain, in facilities the company doesn't operate. Commitments to ensuring wider use of renewables should be part of future reports, Cook said.
But Apple has made improvements in the supply chain and can point to some innovative breakthroughs, he added.