This week I would just like to do a short follow up on Christopher’s article entitled Why do we stick by Google and Apple but not Microsoft?
I will start with a little story about my 6 year old boy. He loves making things and last week he made a laptop computer from cardboard. It has keys with letters on it, a mouse and a black screen with icons. When it was finished he showed it to me, pointing out the detail, and said “I am not going to put the apple here on the top though, because they don’t all have apples”.
This is the power of branding. In a few years when he wants a laptop of his own what will he want? The one with the apple?
Recently though here in the US I have met a few people that do not use Apple products in principle. The reason I think is the bad press that their working practices have received in US newspapers.
I am not in any way endorsing these reports, but I feel that they are worthy of analyzing in a bit of detail, both for their content and their political or ethical standpoint.
The New York Times ran an entire series in which it looked at the human costs of the iPad and apple revolution, and you can read it here (not too long).
The opening lines speak of an explosion in which 2 people were killed as they polished iPad cases. This is not the only reported explosion either, and there are plenty of cases of people being burnt as they use chemicals without proper safety procedures, excessively long days spent entirely stood up and child labour.
It is not just Apple though that use these manufacturing plants however, and the scale of the operations is incredible. One of the names often cited for criticism is Foxconn, and they do a lot of Apple’s assembly. They have 1.2 million employees in China, some plants have more than 100 000 workers, they operate 24 hours a day, can call upon their work force at any time and start production within minutes of receiving orders. This is what the technology of today requires and produces.
Apple do have a code of conduct within its supply chain, drawn up and expanded upon since 2005. Audits are conducted and violations unearthed and they say that this is a sign of their commitments to improvement, but some say that the fact that they problem is continuous points to a toleration of non compliance.
Last year they found 4 deaths and 77 injuries within their production system, and several suicides. Now one death or injury is too many, but with a workforce of well over a million accidents will happen, and some might even see this as a good record. Apple state that they train their workforce and explain their rights to them.
One thing is for sure, the stakes are high and there is a lot of money to be made but Apple is a demanding company. And they are not the only ones with dodgy working practices, but seem to be singled out for criticism.
Why might that be I wonder? Maybe it is because as Christopher hinted they inspire such loyalty amongst their users, and some circles do not like that.