[Updated to include cnet story, see below]
At the moment, Apple (and by extension a friend of mine), is being put through the wringer by the New York Times. I can empathize, having been through the wringer with the 2006 Duke Men’s Lacrosse Team. If the articles lambasting Apple turn out to be inaccurate Apple can likely expect no retractions or apologies from “America’s Newspaper of Record.” Been there, done that.
My friend rightly points out that my Samsung remote has been produced under unsavory working conditions. (How did he know my TV is a Samsung?? cue Twilight Zone music). And that’s just the thing. All, or at least most, of our consumer electronics are built overseas in Asia, and there is no getting away from buying technology that has human misery built into it. I’ll hazard the same goes for any gold necklace or diamond ring. As we wring our hands over what American tech companies are doing about labor conditions in Asia, I honestly can’t remember the Chinese Government being mentioned. Where are they in all of this? Did the NYT contact the Chinese government about labor laws? I admit they may have, but it got lost in the rest of the story. China is the elephant in the room, and they have a culture that is worthy of criticism. A recent Diane Rehm show was discussing organic food. At one point they got off on a tangent about China, and the baby formula scandal from a few years back. Melamine was added to the formula to boost its protein signature resulting in renal failure and death for many toddlers. The company executives knew this would happen, but in a corrupt society the greed was worth more than the lives.
Anyhoo…good investigation (and science) requires more than one source. Apple has inspired what few other companies have – fan sites. And from these forums I am finding that Apple, i.e. Tim Cook, is responding to the NYT’s allegations.
Here is a MacRumors thread noting an all-employees email sent out by Tim Cook: Link
And another MacRumors thread discussing the just released 2012 supplier responsibility audit. It also contains a different email to employees from Tim Cook. An interesting quote:
No one in our industry is driving improvements for workers the way Apple is today. I encourage you to take some time to read more about these efforts, so that you can be as proud of Apple’s contributions in this area as I am. The details are online now at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.
This has great potential, because in fast food there is McDonald’s and then there is everyone else. It wasn’t until Mickey Ds started requiring more humanity from their beef suppliers that things started to change for cattle. Apple has great leverage to move the world here.
AppleInsider gives us an even tougher response from Tim Cook in this thread (although I am having a hard time verifying this, so take it with a pinch of salt). A relevant snippet:
Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we’ve made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people.
If this is to be believed, then Apple is indeed taking the lead for improving working conditions, despite the tone of the NYT. Good on them.
I want to repeat something I said above…where is the chinese guvmint in all this?
Finally, a little nugget lost in this discussion actually has big ramifications for my desire that corporations do more to be citizens than merely pay taxes. My friend mentioned that his partner is insured. His unmarried partner. This is grand, and just the kind of citizenship I am talking about. I’m sure Apple isn’t alone in this, but I imagine it is rare, and some of the others are universities, not for-profit entities.
p.s. interesting to note that my mac corrected my capitalization of MacRumors.com.
[Update] here is an opinion from a CNet writer that really puts things in perspective. Money quote: In fact, everything you own comes from a supply chain that probably has multiple things you just don’t want to know about. You could swap out Apple in that New York Times story and replace it with almost any American corporate giant.