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Apple and their supply chain responsibility: Are they showing enough?

Over recent weeks there has been a lot of talk about Apple and their supply chain, especially when it comes to “sweatshop” conditions with suppliers/manufacturers in the far east, such as Foxconn. For a company that set record profits for a quarter recently and with a cash reserve close to $100 billion, are they showing enough social responsibility?

I think we all understand that as a publicly traded company they have a responsibility to their shareholders to deliver increased value, as investors wants to see growth, but does it ever get to the point where enough is enough and it is time to start thinking more about the responsibility you have towards the welfare and conditions of the people that either directly or indirectly work for you? In my opinion it does.

Apple is known to be amongst the best companies to work value out of their supply chain, getting more profit out of each unit sold than any other manufacturer out there. The only way to achieve that is of course to apply pressure down through the supply chain to lower cost. In a recent Cultofmac article China Labor Watch activist Li Qiang highlighted that Apple is doing a better job than many of its competitors when it comes to auditing its suppliers, but that conditions can still be deemed as “sweatshop”, going on to say;

“it wouldn’t take more than 2-percent of Apple’s profits to dramatically improve workers’ lives in China. Although we think Apple is among the best in terms of auditing, we still think that Apple can do more because it is the most profitable company in the world. As soon as Apple is willing to give a small percentage of its profits, the workers can benefit a lot. But Apple is not willing to do that.”

One can make the argument that in a free economy it is not the responsibility of a company to regulate their own suppliers, but in a changing world where consumers, hopefully, are better informed and make more social responsible buying decisions, in the long run it could be in Apple’s, and any other company’s, best interest to ensure that all of their products are made as ethically as possible.

But the responsibility does not sit with Apple management alone, it sits with shareholders and investors that Apple management is answerable to, and ultimately it sits with you and me, the end consumer, that buys the products. We can help get through the change by showing that we do care about the conditions that our products are made under.

infographic about what Apple could do with their cash pileImage source: AllThingsD

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Filed in: Apple news, Lead Story

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