Apple and Worker Conditions in China

I am sure that Tim Cook (and his carefully selected team) are better at running a company than I am. I am also sure that they know more about what Apple is doing than I do. I know such claims weaken my credibility as a pundit, but I have unable to figure out why Apple is focusing so much attention on worker conditions in the Chinese factories where Apple’s products are made.

I have three questions:

1) What is Apple’s motivation here?

  • To appease the unappeasable press?
  • To win over the Apple haters who pollute insignificant forums with their vitriol?
  • Do they care so much about human rights that they are willing to make things painful and expensive for themselves?
  • Do they intend to transform Chinese factory conditions via a careful, thorough strategy of which audits are a part?
  • Do they intend to transform global manufacturing?

2) How does Apple see this ending? To me it looks a little like falling on your own sword.

And finally…

3) How is Apple the bad guy in this story?

Recently, I have heard numerous reports on NPR that paint Apple in a bad light. One report was by a “long-time Apple user” who is considering a boycott of Apple, and asking listeners if they are willing to do the same, because Apple is so bad for the environment. (Isn’t Apple the “greenest” electronics company?) Another report was about the audits (that Apple commissioned!) and said Apple “has drawn scathing criticism” and has a “public relations crisis”. (Not only is “Apple the first first technology company to become a member of FLA, they are the only electronic company to join.) A third story suggested that Apple take some of their profits and “funnel them back in to improving working conditions”. It said “Apple will eventually have to take a hit to its profitability”.

This all seems like a lot of yelling at the wrong person. Which makes me admire Apple even more—not only are they the only company that “gives a shit about doing the hard work to get things… right”, but they are the only company that gives a shit about doing the hard work to treat humans, customers or workers, right.

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One comment

  1. Loved the last paragraph! Ethics in business – including worldwide – goes a long ways at home and abroad! Well said.

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