The Fair Labor Association will conduct special voluntary audits of Apple's final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, at Apple's request.
A team of labor rights experts led by FLA president Auret van Heerden began the first inspections Monday morning at the facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City.
"We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we've asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports."
Foxconn is a unit of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. The company employs more than 1 million people in China at a series of factories.
As part of its independent assessment, the FLA will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management. The FLA's team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment.
Apple said that its suppliers have pledged cooperation with the FLA, offering unrestricted access to their operations. The FLA's findings and recommendations from the first assessments will be posted in early March on its website, www.fairlabor.org. Similar inspections will be conducted at Quanta and Pegatron facilities later this Spring, and when completed, the FLA's assessment will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled.
Apple last month also disclosed a list of its suppliers for its popular gadgets for the first time amid growing criticism over labor and environmental practices, especially in China.