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?
Photo by chinnian