Change Takes Time


Can you imagine working in Apple’s corporate office when news of Apple’s unethical labor practices overseas hit the papers?  All I can picture in my mind is chaos.

A problem like this is not an easy fix.  You cannot change labor practices and supply chains overnight.  Think about how you would respond.  How would you suggest to fix this PR crisis?  Would you continue to utilize Foxconn to manufacture Apple products?

However, Apple should not be the only party freaking out here.  As bad as the situation is for Apple, this negative PR is just as bad, if not worse, for Foxconn.  Hundreds of articles published about terrible working conditions and unfair treatment of workers…cannot be good for Foxconn’s reputation.  While Apple is utilizing Foxconn’s resources, shouldn’t leaders of Foxconn be taking action and improving the work environment?  Unfortunately, it seems that the negative press is not enough to push Foxconn in the right direction.  I found a Huffington Post article entitled, “Foxconn: No Legal Action After Mike Daisey Story Retracted from ‘This American Life’”.  The title popped out of the search results; I knew this would be an interesting read.  The author says that Foxconn has no plans to take legal action after this radio show retraction.  Later, Simon Hsing (spokesman for Foxconn) states, “Our corporate image has been totally ruined. The point is whatever media that cited the program should not have reported it without confirming (with us)” (1).  Geoffrey Crothall of the China Labour Bulletin claims, at the time this article was written, that it seems Foxconn has not done anything about their work environment.  Nothing had been done about the poor working conditions, long hours, and harsh managers.  And yet, huge crowds of people stand outside factories trying to apply for jobs despite these conditions.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE?!

Apple. It takes one of Foxconn’s biggest and most important clients to change these practices if Foxconn’s leadership won’t take action on their own.  Apple joined the Fair Labor Association in January, 2012 (first technology company to join) and had the association assess the situation at Foxconn.  The FLA’s investigation involved a survey of 35,000 Foxconn workers (selected at random) as well as reviewing policies, production schedules, and other documentation.  Since then, it seems that changes are slowly taking place.  Apple gave a raise in wages for the workers on February 1st, 2012 after joining the Fair Labor Association.  Even more recently, there have been articles reporting a slowdown in Foxconn manufacturing.  Many believe that it was not Foxconn who chose to slow down the manufacturing; instead it was Apple.  In an article I discovered on CNN Money, the author asks, “Could that have anything to do with the fact that Foxconn, pressured by Apple and local workers rights groups, has more than doubled wages and cut overtime hours?” AH HA.  Apple is making moves.  Changing the way things have been done for years will definitely take time.  That said, I really liked this quote from App Advice: “If the question Fortune put forward is proven to be correct, it suggests that Apple is weighing human rights much more heavily than they did in the past. As a result, companies like Foxconn will need to continue improving working conditions, especially in China, or see important jobs head elsewhere” (1).  Finally, I decided to check out Apple’s Supplier Responsibility website.  I thought this website was well constructed and neatly designed.  This page makes it easy for people to read about the steps Apple has recently taken to improve its labor practices.

 

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There is too much information for me to respond to in this single blog, so here’s the link to the page.  Check it out when you have some time!  I was definitely impressed.

Apple seems to be making positive changes, but will Foxconn do the same?  What will things be like next year?  In five years?  In ten years?  Will Foxconn still be producing a large quantity of Apple products, or will Apple find another more ethical manufacturer? Only time will tell.

PS.  I wanted to attach this video I found on youtube!  We definitely got a great glimpse of the environment at Foxconn through the podcast, but this video will allow you to actually see what a day at the factory is like.

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2 thoughts on “Change Takes Time

  1. Great article, lot of thought put into it. I think it is completely unrealistic for a multimillion dollar company like Apple to change suppliers because of bad publicity. Once word is out, the damage is done. Also, before this class I had heard of Foxconn but I couldn’t have told you much about them nor was I aware of their factory conditions. Maybe, I’m just ignorant. (Most likely)

    Anyway, my question is do you think Apple is really changing based off their core values or do you think its more so due to the fact that the public requires them to do so or there sales will be hurt? Check out my post about AIG for an example of the latter of the two.

    Overall, awesome in depth post with videos. You killed it.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! While I agree that it would be unrealistic for Apple to change suppliers purely due to bad publicity, I think that if Foxconn does not make appropriate changes to their work environment, who knows? Apple might choose to set the bar for conditions and practices its suppliers to maintain, and if Foxconn refuses to meet these, there are other manufacturers that will. If Foxconn does not work with Apple to improve, the company risks losing this big multimillion dollar client and taking away thousands of jobs.

      I really like the question you pose in your comment…and I wish I knew the true answer! I would like to believe that this negative press made Apple executives realize the unethical behavior that came with their profit maximization efforts. However, the more likely truth is the latter…doing nothing after this coverage would be terrible for Apple’s reputation. Corporate executives have to be smart enough to realize that some action must be taken–for the sake of the company’s reputation and the lives of the workers overseas.

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