Apple plans to hire a third-party auditing firm to investigate 15 of its suppliers suspected of violating environmental regulations, according to local environmental groups that met with the company on Tuesday.
Apple has been holding talks with the groups after they accused the tech giant of failing to control the pollution caused by its suppliers in China.
Apple's Beijing office did not immediately respond to a query about the groups' claim, although it has previously said it is committed to ensuring its suppliers meet environmental and labor standards.
The groups' previous investigations have found environmental problems at the facilities of 27 suspected suppliers of Apple products. In one case, the pollution from two manufacturers was linked with a rise in cancer rates in residents living nearby, according to a report issued by the environmental groups in August.
Apple sent five employees to speak with the five Chinese environmental groups. Two of the employees came from Apple's U.S. headquarters and were in charge of supply-chain management. Apple requested the environmental groups not to reveal the employees' names to the press.
During Tuesday's meeting, Apple acknowledged that 15 of 22 of the suppliers the group has identified are in fact manufacturers of the company's products, according to Wang Jing Jing, vice director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a group which attended the talks.
But Apple didn't identify to the group which 15 suppliers of the 22 were the right ones, according to members of environmental groups that attended the meeting. They believe Apple should publicly release the information to keep the company and its suppliers more accountable.
"What Apple has been doing is positive," said Li Chunhua, the secretary general of the Green Stone Environmental Action Network, who participated in Tuesday's meeting on a conference line. "But we want them to be more open with their supply chain. They didn't do more in this area."
Apple's meeting with the environmental groups comes shortly after a factory believed to fabricate the aluminum casings for laptops was forced to shut down by the Chinese government.
Catcher Technology, a supplier for Apple's MacBooks, temporarily closed their facility last month after nearby residents complained of unbearable odors coming from the facility.