CUPERTINO, Calif. - An independent group, the Fair Labor Association, has started auditing Apple Inc.'s Chinese supplier Foxconn after a request by Apple.

The technology company last month disclosed a list of its suppliers for the iPhone, iPad and other popular gadgets for the first time amid growing criticism over labour and environmental practices, especially in China.

The FLA is a group of companies and universities focused on improving labour practices. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple joined the group in January.

The FLA's first inspections started Monday morning at Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China. Apple says other major suppliers will also be inspected later in the spring.

The FLA's findings and recommendations will begin to be posted on www.fairlabour.org in early March.