Can Apple Make an Ethical iPhone5?


In the wake of allegations of Chinese employees working in highly dangerous conditions at factories owned by Foxconn Technology to make iPads, iPhones and iPods, Care2 put up a petition calling for an end to the abuse of Foxconn workers.

The New York Times article suggested that Apple, due to its recent phenomenal success (including its record $13.1 billion profit in the last quarter), has become so powerful that it can demand that its suppliers keep their prices as low as possible, with no regard to the cost on workers.

Tim Worstall at Forbes goes a step further and argues that the ethical campaign that is really needed involves the very materials the iPhone is made of:

Now if you’d like an ethical campaign that I would support Apple getting behind, how about this one, the creation of a conflict mineral free iPhone. No, not just one that doesn’t use conflict minerals: all Apple products are free of them already. No, rather, expending the effort to source products from the areas that conflict minerals come from, but making sure to only use not conflict minerals.

It is the people in Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries, who we should be directing our moral outrage about Apple towards, in calling for an iPhone that is ethical through and through, down to the materials it is made of.

Apple has yet to make an official statement about the alleged abusive conditions that workers toil in. In an internal memo that was leaked last week, Apple CEO  Tim Cook told employees that “any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us.”

Apple has recently released a list of 156 of its suppliers and has also said that it will allow outside monitors to inspect its partners’ factories. These are positive steps but given the popularity (sometimes compared to a religion) of Apple’s products, the company is in a position to make real changes in the manufacture of its devices that could be followed by other companies. Foxconn’s workers assemble an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics; its customers include Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Nintendo, Nokia and Samsung. Apple has has become the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA); why not, in the words of its “think different” campaign, offer sleekly designed, sparkly, shiny tech devices that are made in conditions that no one would hesitate to question and that are made through and through of conflict-free minerals?

Related Care2 Coverage

iPhones, Foxconn and Obama’s Empty China Rant

How Many People Died To Make Your iPad?

Chinese Workers’ Rights: Apple Makes a Small Step Forward


Photo by chinnian


Nicole P.
Nicole Sedkowski4 years ago

Great article, and definately an idea that should be followed up on, but will apple comply I wonder. Hmm..... lets hope so.

J.L. A.
JL A.4 years ago

We need Apple to become a Benefits Corp. and to transform this unconscionable travesty of rights violations of workers in their supply chain.

Wes Giesbrecht
Past Member 4 years ago

Kristina, the iPhone IS
sold in Europe.

Wes Giesbrecht
Past Member 4 years ago

A hypothetical dollar an hour as opposed to $10 an hour on that one, tiny, aspect of building an iPhone. Nobody said anything about iPhones for a buck.
This is what I wrote:
"But it's not just the assembly. Labour, from procuring the raw materialas and refining them and the whole manufacturing process of making all the parts is done at enormously lower labour rates than what it would cost in the US."

I find it almost surreal that I'm trying to 'explain' something that's so incredibly obvious.

Kristina C.
Kristina C.4 years ago

An ethical iPhone - I don't believe it will happen - unless the phone is sold in Europe. Here in the U.S. people only care about money not where the phone comes from and under what condition it was made - and VERY FEW would pay more for a phone that was manufactured ethically.
What would it take to manufacture an ethical phone anyway?
It would have to be made of cruel free and environmentally friendly materials, by workers that are compensated fairly and from companies that are not outsourcing. - GOOD LUCK!

Please sign my petition:

Lee Witton
4 years ago

Excuse me Wes but ummm, I haven't noticed any great sticker prices on phones. In fact, when I'm told I am eligible for a 150.00 phone uprgrade on a phone and I go into the phone store and the sticker price is 299.99 for a damned 30.00 phone, the consumer in the U.S. is still getting screwed. You just don't seem to get it. Cheap labor bring corporations huge profits by bringing those products back to this country and sticking it to the same people they laid off to outsource their jobs. Seriously Wes. $1 per 1 phone = 299.99. Wow; what a deal Apple has for you. And of course, I-Phones are even more expensive at stores than are regular cell phones so again, what a deal they have for you. You may like those deals, but I say, bring those jobs back to the U.S. and cut the profits for the corporations. That is what these fat cats don't want.
I truly hope that Obama can get the Democratic policies of not subsidizing corporations who outsource jobs, but rather offer better incentives to corporations back to this country. That doesn't mean bringing the Chinese with the corporations either.

Wes Giesbrecht
Past Member 4 years ago


If an iPhone takes an hour to assemble and you pay a Chinese worker ONE Dollar per hour,
how much does it cost to assemble the iPhone?
If you build the iPhone in north America and you pay the worker $1 per hour, you go to jail.
No, you pay the worker at least $10 an hour.
Then, how much does it cost to assemble the iPhone?

But it's not just the assembly. Labour, from procuring the raw materialas and refining them and the whole manufacturing process of making all the parts is done at enormously lower labour rates than what it would cost in the US.

Why do you think all of the other tech companies also have their stuff made in Asia?

Whether it's Apple or HP or Dell or Nokia... WE... are the problem. We sit here waiting for our next techno fix just like junkies sit and wait for the next shipment of heroin from Afghanistan.

Whether the tech companies create the demand or we just buy in because we have no 'will power', they're just filling the demand. Same as the pushers. This is OUR fault, no someone else's.

Christine R.
Christine Ramsey4 years ago

In response to Wes G.- No, the iPhone would not cost 10x as much. Apple knows no on would buy it if it was that price. They give the phone a price they think people will pay, not what it costs to make. Why do you think their profits are so high?

Lee Witton
4 years ago

won't. I find it disturbing that while people talk about good working conditions and higher wages for workers in these countries, they don't demand these corporations bring jobs back to America. Unblelievable!

Lee Witton
4 years ago

When do consumers in America get it? We and we alone are the reason jobs are being outsourced to countries like China. We are willing to overlook the deplorable standards of these countries that produce these products, for a good sticker price here in America. I look for products that say made in the USA. Unfortunately, because of the GREED of Americans, there are not yet many products made here, but,there are some. Try invoking in self "do no harm" because you do when you buy from Apple or any manufacturer who will work their employees 60 plus hours a week at less than a dollar an hour and threaten them to keep their mouths shut or they will lose their job. I don't understand why any true American would be willing to sell out for something as frivolous for an I-Phone when their are so many unemployed workers here in the states. Yes, prices would be higher in this country, but then, as Americans we've always supposedly held ourselves to higher standards, which includes standard of living. I don't want to live as though we are a third world country and that's not what anyone else should be striving for either. The Kochs and most of the other in the top 1% bracket care only about their own power status, not the despicable conditions people in THIS country are being relegated to because of outsourcing. I am so ashamed to live in a country that believes outsourcing and rewarding outsourcing is an American standard in which to be applauded. I sure as hell don't have an I-Phone and