Posts Tagged ‘sweatshops’

Hooray for Apple CEO Tim Cook for seriously addressing labor issues in China. When will Nike follow suit?

April 2, 2012

 

Business ethics presents a dilemma when it comes to purchases from low-wage countries. Cheap labor in China makes cool iPhones for us, and cheap labor in Indonesia makes snazzy Nikes. But should an ethical person buy these products? More specifically, are Nike and Apple unethically exploiting the people who make the products they sell so profitably?

I’ve written before that Nike’s business practices are unethical, while Apple seems to be trying to do right by the workers who make its products. A January New York Times article highlighted abusive working conditions at Foxconn, a major supplier of iPhone and iPad parts in Shenzen, China. In response Apple requested an independent audit of Foxconn,and Foxconn announced an immediate pay raise.

Now the New York Times reports that Tim Cook, ,Apple’s CEO, has actually toured a Foxconn factory where its products are made, and the audit he requested has slammed Foxconn for over-long hours and dangerous working conditions. In response, Foxconn promised to make substantial improvements and bring their plants into conformance with Apple’s code of conduct.

The Times notes,

“Mr. Cook’s appearance at a facility where Apple devices are made was an illustration of how differently Apple’s new chief relates to an issue that first surfaced under his predecessor, Steven P. Jobs.

“Since Mr. Cook became chief executive last fall, shortly before the death of Mr. Jobs, Apple has taken a number of significant steps to address concerns about how Apple products are made.”

This is encouraging. Tim Cook looks headed in a very different direction than Steve Jobs, and very different from Nike’s Phil Knight and Mark Parker. Cook actually WENT there. (Thanks to Rick Cole for the link.)

I buy Apple products. I don’t buy Nike.

 

Nike’s unethical; Apple maybe not so much

February 27, 2012

 

Nike shoes are a bargain at $220 a pair. They must be, else why would hundreds of people have showed up Thursday at a Greenwood, Indiana, mall, according to the police report, “panicking to get to the front of the line” for the limited release of the $220 Foamposite Galaxy. The next day in Orlando it took a hundred deputies in riot gear to subdue a crowd waiting for the new Galaxy.

Similar riots attended Nike’s December release of the latest in the Air Jordan line, the $180 Air Jordan XI Concord.

The Air Jordans cost Nike about $16 to produce, giving Nike a gross profit of $164 a pair, or about 90 per cent, before marketing expenses. Shareholders have done well, as the stock price has increased over one hundred times in the last 25 years—in contrast, the Dow Jones average has gone up a factor of seven in that period.

The workers in Indonesia who make Nike shoes haven’t done nearly as well: they earn $4 a day—not enough to provide food, shelter, transportation, and health care. And they can only dream of someday being able to buy a pair of Nikes for themselves.

Nike could easily afford to pay a living wage—labor costs account for only $2.50 a pair. (more…)

Is it ethical to buy an iPhone or iPad made in a Chinese sweatshop?

February 14, 2012

 

My amazing iPhone 3GS was made in Foxconn’s huge factory in Shenzen, China, where workers toil long hours under unhealthy and downright dangerous conditions, put in forced, unpaid overtime, sleep in crowded dormitories, and—occasionally, commit suicide.

Now I’m ready to upgrade to the newest iPhone 4S, with Siri, the personal assistant with attitude. But can I give Apple more business with a clear conscience?

The outsourcing of millions of jobs to low cost countries has eliminated the American consumer electronics industry. Virtually all desktop and laptop computers are made in Asia, along with nearly all mobile phones, TV sets, and radios. Americans have gone on to other jobs, but many have never found employment as good as they had in manufacturing.

The cost to Americans is arguably far outweighed by the benefits of a dizzying variety of goods that are far, far more affordable than they were years ago. But do our benefits come at the cost of exploiting workers in China, for example?

If we look at the working conditions at Foxconn we’re tempted to say yes. And many people have taken what they consider a principled stand against buying Apple products, or indeed, any products made under sub-standard—by American standards—conditions.

But the Foxconn workers aren’t slaves—they flock to Shenzen (more…)


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