Apple has been getting a ton of heat for its heavy use of Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturers. With labor practices, wages, and safety situations that are considered subpar by Western standards, it’s easy to understand why. However, compared to most companies, Apple is doing more to improve labor in China. Foxconn is also viewed to be superior to other manufacturers in China. Check out a lengthy excerpt from Apple CEO Tim Cook addressing the matter.
In a recent investors call (via MacRumors) Cook said:
I can tell you that no one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple. We are constantly auditing facilities going deep into the supply chain, looking for problems, finding problems and fixing problems. We report everything because we believe transparency is so very important in this area. I am so incredibly proud of the work that our teams are doing in this area. They focus on the most difficult problems and they stay with them until they fix them. They are truly a model for the industry.
We think the use of underaged labor is abhorrent. It’s extremely rare in our supply chain, but our top priority is to eliminate it totally. We’ve done that with our final assembly and we’re now working with vendors farther down in the supply chain. If we find a supplier that intentionally hires underage labor, it’s a firing offense.
We don’t let anyone cut corners on safety. If there is a problem on safety, we seek out the foremost experts and set a new standard and apply that to the entire supply chain. We focus on the details. If there is a fire extinguisher missing from a cafeteria, that facility doesn’t pass inspection until that fire extinguisher is in place.
We are continuing to focus on problems endemic to our industry like excessive overtime. Our code of conduct has a cap of 60 hours per workweek. We have consistently found violations of this code over the course of our time, so at the beginning of this year we announced that we are determined to drive widespread change. We have begun to manage working hour at a very micro basis.
Is it fair that Apple is getting criticized more than other big companies that rely on Chinese supply chains? That’s highly debatable. The vast majority of consumer electronics companies use Chinese factories like Foxconn to assemble and make components for their goods. Since Apple is currently the most successful consumer electronics company in the world, it’s easy to understand why it’s getting criticized more than the competition.
Secondly, while it’s generally accepted that Foxconn treats and pays its workers better than the competition, that doesn’t mean that its practices are fair or good. It’s like comparing a pile of garbage to a nicer pile of garbage. At the end of the day, they both stink.
What do you think of Cook’s comments? Have they changed your view on Apple’s use of Foxconn and other Chinese suppliers?