As Apple continues to make headlines (The Guardian, Forbes, New York Times) for labor violations at Chinese supply factories, CEO Tim Cook assuaged investment fears at Goldman Sachs. In a speech given at the financial powerhouse last Tuesday, Cook outlined both the impact of new Apple innovations, such as iCloud and Siri, and the company’s position on indignant working conditions.
A recording of the speech can be found here on the Apple website and the transcript can be found here on MacRumors.
Of note from the transcript are two excerpts:
“In January, we collected weekly data on over a half million workers in our supply chain. We had 84% compliance. This is significantly improved from the past, but we can do better. We’re taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website, so it’s transparent to everyone what we’re doing.” (Emphasis added)
No surprise, Apple does not approve of suffering and vows to become more transparent… but is disapproval and increased transparency a satisfactory response? Prospectively, Apple could just continue unabated… albeit with a whole lot more guilt and public shame.
Action is needed. Consequence is required. Will any firings actually occur or any contracts with suppliers found in violation actually be terminated? How much does granting exclusive news coverage to ABC, a company with incestuous ties to Apple, really not help the cause?
Interestingly, Cook’s mainly positive speech—meant to energize investment—came at a time when Apple’s share of the Chinese smartphone market is slipping. Roughly a fifth of Cook’s speech touched on supply chain issues in China, while close to half dealt with emerging markets. Cook is clearly trying to send a message that all is well for Apple in China. However, the writing on the wall is telling a different story.
The Fair Labor Association, which has been hired by Apple to audit its supply chain, has leaked that Foxconn, Apple’s most notorious supply partner, has “tons of issues.” In turn, Foxconn has announced that it will raise salaries. More needs to be done to assure Apple products are created through fair practices, practices that will respect both Apple’s workers and competitors. Any suggestions?
p.h. update March 2012: Some portions of one source of the reports regarding Apple have been retracted, namely the This American Life episode featuring Mike Daisey’s monologue. To read more about the discussion regarding journalism v. theater, read here and for the full transcript of the retraction, click here. We’re following with interest the developments around this story (and that of the Kony 2012 campaign). While we agree there is merit in bringing attention to important issues, even (perhaps especially) highly-nuanced issues, we strongly believe in telling the truth as fully as possible and clearly stating where questions remain.