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Investor and consumer pressure can move mountains. Finally, Apple has agreed to take a hard look at the working conditions in its factories around the world.

Apple Inc., now the world's largest company by market value, has dazzled consumers by essentially reinventing how we buy music, how we use our phones and how we access the web. The company has similarly dazzled investors with a share price that seems impervious to global economic challenges and bear markets.

For responsible investors, Apple has been a conundrum: Environmentally conscious but practically devoid of philanthropic activity. Meticulously managed by a visionary leader but with a supply chain notorious for poor working conditions. The company didn't even disclose who its suppliers were.

This week, Apple moved to correct some of its supply chain shortcomings. The company has appointed the Fair Labor Association to independently audit supplier factories around the world. Apple said that FLA will “interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management.” It will also inspect manufacturing areas, worker dormitories and other facilities.

We have long been disappointed that Apple has deflected criticism and hidden behind "trade secrets" in its neglect of factory conditions. This recent action is potentially a huge step forward for the company, and we watch with great interest to see if true transparency emerges from this audit. Measurement is the first step, but the real value will be delivered when worker conditions actually improve across the company's supply chain.

Read more about Apple's commitment to Supplier Responsibility.

Read the NY Times article on Apple's supplier audit program.