Where is Apple Taking the Electronics Industry Next?

We all know that Apple has been the largest technology and electronics company for a number of years, however, now they are using that success to lead the industry towards a new goal.  Apple is adamant about cleaning up their supply chain by cracking down on the use of child labor.  It was well documented a couple years ago that Apple, among many other electronics companies, were using child labor and sweatshops to cut the costs of their products.  In a recent audit of Apple, 106 child labor incidents were reported and it was discovered that 11 of Apple’s factories in its supply chain are still using child labor.  Although these numbers are larger than Apple would like, a lot of it is out of the hands of Apple.

One of the major problems that Apple has to deal with is the use of false identification.  The factories in the supply chain are giving the children false identification and prohibiting the children from revealing their true ages to anyone.  The reason they do this is so that they don’t lose Apple’s business to a cheaper factory.  With this being said, Apple is implementing more stringent age verification procedures by requiring more detailed forms of identification.  Apple also has a new program where they send any children they find in the factories back to school and pay for their education.  Apple is showing that they are determined to eliminate the use of child labor and this could change the whole philosophy of how electronic companies view the use of underage labor.

Being the massive company that it is, Apple is scrutinized in everything it does, as evident in 2010 when the Apple sweatshops were first made public.  However, being under that microscope can work in Apples favor also.  Many of the other companies in the electronics industry follow the lead of Apple and this situation is no different.  If Apple stops using child labor, other companies may follow suit, even if it raises the cost of their products a little bit.  Nothing can really sum this up better than the quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  Apple has risen to the top of the industry and has all the power in the world, now comes the question of how they will use that power.  If they chose to continue down the path of cleaning up their supply chain, they can play a huge role in eliminating the use of child labor.

Here is a behind the scenes look at one of the Apples sweatshops in China: 


8 thoughts on “Where is Apple Taking the Electronics Industry Next?

  1. Fascinating video! I think it is amazing how far we are willing to go under the pressure to be the best, fastest, first. I think it is great that Apple is taking these issues very seriously and I hope that they take a big step in leading the way in corporate responsibility. I think it is also important to think about the bigger issues of why the people in China are forced to tolerate those conditions and low pay? Can anyone in the class imagine themselves working in that factory?

  2. Wow great blog Tim! I loved the quote that you used I actually used the same one in my blog. I just have to wonder what if the other companies in the industry do not end up following the lead of Apple? It seems more and more common that companies can just copy other companies technology at a much cheaper rate thus taking the business away from the companies that invented the technology. My worry for Apple is that maybe they do not have that next great invention like the Ipod or the Iphone and they slowly start to lose their market share in the different industries they are involved in because consumers see the cheaper price tag and are willing to buy the cheaper product even though that company does not act as ethically as Apple. Although, Apple with their success of the past decade gives us every reason to have faith in them so hopefully this ethically correct decision will not negatively affect Apple because then what does that say about big business in the U.S.? Great blog Tim I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. Apple has had a history of using questionable labor methods. I don’t mean Apple itself but rather the companies they hire to do the factory work. Apple used to be proud that all of its products and its components were made in America. Then they began to outsource because of the cheap labor. They wanted the work done fast to meet the latest demands for supply and new technology. Apple, like many other companies, knows that the labor markets overseas are questionable but they outsource anyway. This is done in order to compete; the results are beneficial. I’m glad that Apple is working on their corporate responsibility. I’m not saying that outsourcing should stop, workers overseas need to feed their families too, but there is a fine line that a lot of major companies like Apple are walking on. To large companies who have questionable labor methods associated I have a message: You can rationalize it however you want, but at the end of the day you know what’s moral.

  4. Very interesting blog, I was surprised at the amount of child laborers found in Apple’s factories. It is being commonplace now to use factories overseas in production for cheap labor. But this brings up the question of whose responsibility it is to make sure working conditions are up to par. Is it the responsibility of Apple, the factory owners, or the Chinese govt. to regulate the practices of the factory managers. Someone has to step up and now that Apple is getting attention for using child laborers, I think it would be bad PR, as well as unethical, to keep showing a blind eye to the situation. I believe Apple should create a policy to make regular sweeps of its factories to check for safe working conditions and legal workers. The video was very interesting and eyeopening to see real people working instead of just hearing about it. Good job on the blog!

  5. Tim, I really enjoyed the topic of your blog. It was an appropriate topic for class, too, seeing as we had just spoken about sweatshops in class on Tuesday. However, I don’t know that I completely agree with what was suggested though. Who is to say that other companies are going to follow suit if Apple stops using cheap labor and sweatshops all at once? If anything. I think that companies will jump at any opportunity to overcome Apple, seeing as they are recognized by tech customers as the leaders in technology today. Additionally, I do not think that Apple should feel the pressure to give up their cheap labor if almost every other huge company, such as Nike, uses cheap labor and people still continue to buy their products. I understand that child labor is wrong, but it was not Apple’s fault that they had forged documents. Also, they seem to have a pretty good system where they make up for the damage done once they find out that they had employed minors. If anything, those kids are better off because of Apple, seeing as they get a free education, that most children in those countries do not have access to.

  6. It took me by surprise to see how many children were working in the Apple factories over time. Even though it isn’t directly Apple’s fault these children are being hired, I believe that they are responsible to act upon it. I am glad that Apple is trying their best to reduce the amount of child laborers to zero. With the introduction of these new policies to limit child labor, I believe that Apple has a chance in succeeding in this goal. I do disagree with your point that the fact that Apple is doing things to stop child labor may cause other companies to follow suit, due to the magnitude of the Apple empire. Apple is not the only country who has child laborers working in their sweatshops. If these other companies have not made eliminating the use of child laborers a goal already, the fact that Apple is doing this will not change their minds. Other companies know the ethical dilemmas with child labor, and if that hasn’t stopped them than Apple won’t either, in my opinion.

  7. Interesting post, and good take on the humanitarian side of a supply chain. I would have to agree with some of these comments here, though Apple is taking noble steps to ending child labor in their supply chains, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other companies will follow suit. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that though we and other consumers know what is moral, that doesn’t mean people will act on that. People still buy Nike products, and still shop in Walmart, despite the moral and humanitarian repercussions. But all in all, good use of the video and great post!

  8. Pingback: Another American retailer risking lives in developing countries: TOMS Shoes | JourneyAmerica

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