Apple Launches Foxconn Audits to Assuage Public Concern

by Matt Klassen on February 14, 2012

Throughout the ongoing controversy surrounding working conditions in the Chinese Foxconn factories along its supply line, Apple has staunchly maintained its innocence (or ignorance perhaps), with CEO Tim Cook taking issue with accusations that the company doesn’t care about working conditions and reaffirming his company’s commitment to upholding the highest working standards for everyone involved in the production of Apple’s popular devices.

The problem for Apple has been, of course, that no one believes it cares at all, as over the last year explosions continued to happen, complaints continued to surface, and workers continued to die (despite the presence of anti-suicide nets!).

In the face of mounting criticism and pressure to reform its supplier agreements to assure better working conditions Apple announced yesterday that it has hired the independent auditing firm Fair Labor Association (FLA) to investigate the actual conditions at the Foxconn factories in China. But is this move a tacit admission that Apple dropped the ball, or is it simply a way for Apple to quiet the public criticism until it can hypnotize the masses once again with the next must-have device?

According to Apple, a team of experts from the FLA has already begun an independent audit of the working conditions of Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, although no timetable was given for when any findings would be ready (and some already questioning whether such findings will have any teeth). For its part, the FLA is a multifaceted taskforce “dedicated to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide.”

Although Apple was recently left with egg on its face as the NY Times lambasted the company for its inability or unwillingness to control its supply chain the Cupertino Company, as one would surely expect, has kicked its marketing machine into overdrive to try and give this entire situation a positive spin…and here it is.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.” [italics mine]

While I certainly will give credit to Apple for leading the charge when it comes to correcting deficient overseas employment standards, the company is making sure that everyone knows that what it is doing here is both unprecedented and immensely ethical.

Of course the company didn’t act after the rash of employee suicides almost two years ago which in turn first brought to light the atrocious working conditions, nor did it respond after explosions killed several employees last year, but kudos (I suppose) for finally bowing to public pressure.

Despite the fact that Apple will likely set a precedent for establishing working standards along supply chains that many other companies will follow and with the admission that this is a sold first step in stemming the tide of human casualties in the production of our favorite devices, I find this nothing more than a PR move designed to satiate the general public until the release of the iPad 3 sometime next month.

Like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar Apple offered its own tacit admission of guilt only after it had no choice but to recognize its culpability in the matter, and truthfully there’s nothing particularly ethical about that.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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Ethics Watchdog Decries Apple’s Hollow Platitudes —
August 20, 2012 at 5:48 am

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