With Record Profits, Pressure Mounting on Apple

Indeed I am moving away from the usual focus of this blog to join the array of writers drawing attention to the deplorable working conditions at Foxconn, a major manufacturer of iPhones, iPads, and all things Apple.  Much has been written over the past year and again this past week regarding Apple’s manufacturing at Foxconn, i.e. shameful working conditions resulting in an unusually high suicide rate. There have been two explosions at factories in the past five months resulting in several deaths and many, many injuries.

Ryan Pyle for The New York Times

I want to share with you some of what has been published recently and ask you to join the petition asking Apple to become an active participant in rectifying the unacceptable working conditions in their supply chain.  The photo to the right shows the parents of Lai Xiaodong who was killed in one of the recent explosions at Foxconn.  His parents have build a shrine for their son.

Here is a quote from the NEWS BITES section of the January 30th issue of Newsweek:

‘To manage 1 million animals gives me a headache.’ – Terry Gou, head of Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn, describing his workforce.

In light of the release of Apple’s earnings this week that shows the company making a record $13 billion in pure profit is it too much to ask them to improve the lives of the workers in their supply chain who have made this possible?  I think not.

The New York Times published a shocking article, In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad, on January 25th that shows Apple has been aware of these problems for several years now. Writers Charles Duhigg and David Barboza have provided many compelling and disturbing facts to ponder.  What I see is that the technology industry is where the apparel industry was back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Until the executives realize that their post-rationalization of these inexcusable acts must be replaced with real, actionable changes, Apple will remain mired in the quicksand of this situation.

Larry Dignan, ZDNet, has written one of my favorite articles, Apple’s supply chain flap: It’s really about us, because he shares my view that we, as consumers, are also to blame if we continue to support companies who do nothing to ensure that their products are produced in safe environments with decent pay. Dignan also points out the while Apple is being highlighted at the moment they are in no way alone in this discretion.  According to Dignan, “It’s a U.S. problem and it’s a consumer problem that goes well beyond tech”.  I could not agree more!

In an open letter to Apple, Dear Apple: Do something about Chinese working conditions, Molly Wood at CNET acknowledges consumers’ influence, “Sure, consumers are part of the larger solution, and dollars speak loudly. But fair or unfair, one company has the economic power, the sheer volume, and the boots on the ground to make true change happen quickly. That’s Apple”.  After watching the 9 minute video posted in this article I had the impression that Wood is willing to absolve consumers and lay the blame solely at the feet of Apple. I believe we have more power to effect change.  It has been proven in the apparel and textile industries that consumers have unprecedented power over brands today and this needs to carry over into other market segments.

Let me know what you think.  Fairwear until next time…

2 thoughts on “With Record Profits, Pressure Mounting on Apple

  1. Thanks for highlighting this. Apple isn’t alone in this practice – many tech companies and consumer electronics firms use the ‘cheap labor’ and ‘onerous EPA regulations’ as reasons to move manufacturing offshore. Yet as you have shown before, the fashion industry woke up to the fact that people will vote with their wallet when properly informed and motivated, and reward companies that manufacture ethically.

    Apple is not a commodity product, unlike many other consumer tech products. Their margins are deservedly high because of the value they build into each product. So shaving 1-2 points off their margin to improve working conditions and quality of life should be an easy trade-off for the company that likes to position itself as thinking differently.


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