Supply chains in China
Core and periphery
Mar 4th 2010 | HONG KONG
From The Economist print edition
Apple uncovers poor conduct at some of its contractors
APPLE is renowned for the control it exercises over every element of its business, from design to marketing.
The resulting products, to its fans, verge on perfection. But there are clearly some steps in the manufacturing process that it does not supervise so closely. According to a report the firm released on February 23rd, the treatment of workers at several of its contractors in various countries broke both local laws and Apple’s own standards. Such problems are thought to be rife at Western firms’ suppliers in China in particular, but are seldom brought to light. Even Apple’s account raises more questions than it answers.
Apple says some of its suppliers hired underage employees, dumped hazardous waste illegally, made staff work unreasonable hours and paid less than the minimum wage. They also violated Apple’s own standards by discriminating against pregnant women, providing inadequate safety equipment and imposing onerous recruitment fees on workers. Remedial steps, the company says, have already been taken. But it does not specify where these events occurred or how many people were affected. Over the past three years the firm has increased the number of facilities audited each year from 39 to 102. But how much of its production this represents is not disclosed. The report does, however, observe that Apple’s suppliers are good at protecting its intellectual property, if not their workers’ rights.
To be fair, Apple was under no obligation to commission the report or make its findings public. What is