Apple’s The Only Tech Company Allowing Independent Audits Of Factory Conditions

Apple’s The Only Tech Company Allowing Independent Audits Of Factory Conditions

No technology company in the world has been more scrutinized than Apple when it comes to labor conditions. Over the past couple months everyone has been quick to point out how crappy the conditions are at Apple’s supplier factories – Foxconn. But what a lot of the tech press hasn’t done, is investigate the conditions at the other major tech companies in the world. Not only is Apple the only company talking about what they’re doing to fix the problem, but they are the only major tech company that is allowing independent audits of their factory conditions.

It’s a simple question, phrased politely, and sent to the right people. Does your company have any plans to let independent auditors check up on your suppliers’ factories?

Here’s what some of the world’s biggest electronics companies said in response:

Hewlett-Packard

Thanks for your note.  I’ve included a link to all of our supply chain related material, including audit results, supplier list (we were the first company to publish this list in 2008, and additional material you may find useful).

Unfortunately I can’t provide a spokesperson for you at this time.

Microsoft

Microsoft is committed to ensuring the fair treatment and safety of workers at manufacturers contracted to our company.  We have invested heavily in a robust supply chain social and environmental accountability (SEA) program to ensure that supplier factory conditions are compliant with our Vendor Code of Conduct.  This means Microsoft’s hardware suppliers are required, under terms of our contract, to provide Microsoft and third-party auditors on-site access to each facility for auditing and assessment purposes.

Our program includes direct engagement with our contracted suppliers through an in-region SEA team to build their capabilities and awareness in relation to our code requirements, and to monitor their compliance and progress.  We train our suppliers on the Microsoft social and environmental requirements in supplier-training forums (since 2003), in one-on-one business performance review discussions, and in reviews and verification inspections of improvement plans for issues identified in audits and assessments.  If our strict standards are not met, suppliers risk termination of their contract. Our list of suppliers and the results of supplier audits are currently considered confidential business information.

Microsoft currently works with the Fair Labor Association [ed note: this is the organization Apple is working with] on a project basis, including conducting worker surveys and factory specific capability building projects. As we presently have a robust auditing program in place, a deeper engagement with the organization has not been considered by Microsoft.

HTC

Over the last couple of years, we have looked closely at how we can continue to evolve our global standards and practices to optimize for the health, safety and opportunity of the people that contribute to the success of HTC. As a member of the EITC, we conduct thirty to forty supplier audits each year to identify where practices need to be brought into compliance with standards. Our base in Taiwan gives us the proximity to react quickly to issues when they do arise.

This is a long term journey grounded in our commitment to act as a global leader, and we approach these issues with the goal of continually pushing ourselves, our suppliers and the industry towards ongoing improvement.

Toshiba

We regret having taken so long to respond to your inquiry.

Unfortunately, we are unable to respond to your request.

Samsung

ASUS

Sony

Now that we’ve seen how other tech giants are responding, do you think the amount of criticism Apple has garnered over the last few months is fair? Let us hear your opinion in the comments.

[Via BuzzFeed]

  • Dmitry Libman

    Well said.  It’s complete bs that apple gets so much heat for this when no other company as allowed any independent auditors come in.  

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    This is an excellent article, now can we have this picked up by the mass media?

  • Adam S-P

    It’s amazing how quiet the troll’s get when presented with the cold hard facts…

  • Al

    “do you think the amount of criticism Apple has garnered over the last few months is fair?”

    YES

    We love Apple and expect better from Apple – they are supposed to be the best. Not “it’s ok coz we’re just as sh1t as everyone else”.

    Second, where Apple leads, the rest of tech follows. If Apple cleans up it’s act, the pressure will be on the other tech firms to follow suit. Starting off by reforming Apple is the most efficient way of reforming the whole industry. No body cares about any other tech company anywhere near as much. To start by attacking anyone else is retarded.

    The headline of this article is, “Apple’s The Only Tech Company Allowing Independent Audits Of Factory Conditions”.

    This is what we WANT it to say one day:

    “Apple’s The Only Tech Company With Proper Factory Conditions”.

    Until the headline can say that, Apple and it’s collaborators will rightly keep feeling the pressure (and putting up those anti-suicide nets).

  • Custom

    Sooo true

  • Radtech51

    “Why am I not surprised Samsung didn’t comment. They’re probably waiting to see what Apple says, then copy it. If they go after Apple, they should go after ALL of them.”

    Well stated Kr00, this is so True! As for Apple getting picked on while the others just sit back and relax is just plain wrong! 

  • taylerz

    Tell that to Ruth, the Raging Granny!

  • Honey Badger

    I agree that working conditions need to improve. I’m glad that Apple is finally taking this seriously, but they cannot do it all by themselves. Many of the problems in China are the responsibility of the Chinese government. Laws need to be passed and enforced.

    Every tech company should be following Apple’s lead and I think more will if pressure gets applied to them as well. 

    This is an multi-industry-wide problem. It’s not right to give the worst offenders, who do nothing, a free pass and continually poke the one company that is actually trying to improve working conditions.

    I’m fine if they want to keep the heat on Apple – fair enough, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right to ignore Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, HTC and the rest. They’re getting a free pass while not making any attempt to improve things for the workers.

  • cassandralite

    It’s lovely that we can pat ourselves on the back b/c we’re Apple fanboys and, by golly, the world of Steve is the world we have to defend with our sacred honor and, if necessary, our lives.  But it’s likely we’re all wearing shoes and clothes and buying a gillion other items made in Chinese factories that make Foxconn look like Club Med.  So unless we’re willing to forgo those things, we might want to dial back a few degrees on the self congratulations.

  • Martin Hill

    It’s not just supplier inspections that the rest of the media is ignoring or distorting, it is also just about every other “fact” mentioned in most articles on the subject.

    For example suicides – at 17 suicides over 5 years out of 1.2 million workers, Foxconn’s suicide rate is between 10-20 times LOWER than that of China (220 suicides per million PER YEAR!), the USA (110 suicides per million p.a.), MIT undergraduate students (the equivalent of 180 suicides per million per year) etc.

    Then there is rate of pay- At $6,000 p.a., Foxconn pays their production workers 50% more than the average for production workers in the rest of China.

    Fatal Industrial Accident rate – Foxconn comes in at 10x less than the average in the USA.

    Those 150 workers who threatened to jump from the roof of a Foxconn factory a few months back over a pay dispute were making Xboxes for Microsoft and yet many publications have had the gall to neglect to mention it was Microsoft products not Apple ones they were making. Utter gutter journalism.

    This whole thing is stinking of media bandwagon witch hunt. It’s quite shameful.

  • Andrew Huss

    Well said!

  • howie_isaacks

    The statement from Microsoft just went on and on and on and on and on.  It reads like one of their EULAs!

  • iTos

    As far as the suicide nets are concerned, FOXCON is just not manufacturing for Apple exclusive. They have contracts from Dells to HPs. So improving conditions only at Apple is not going to make those nets go away anytime soon. So your point of view looks biased here.

  • bkx029

    I disagree with your reasoning. Yes, Apple does lead in technology and the others follow, but if a company like Foxconn was exclusively manufacturing for Apple, then yes, the criticism would be deserved. The fact of the matter is they build devices for other tech companies as well… large tech companies who seemingly don’t give a rat’s ass about the factory conditions.

    Why should they get a pass? Because they’re not as big as Apple? Because they’re not as popular? Because they don’t make as much money? There should be no leading or following here. If you’re going to fly the flag of responsibility then make sure that each participant bears the same burden. Every company who does business with Foxconn ought to share the responsibility of making sure that the workers are treated fairly if that’s the fight you choose to take on.

    You think Apple hasn’t done enough? Well what have the others done to this point?

  • AdamChew1

    “where Apple leads, the rest of tech follows”

    You got to be kidding, you believe they are sheep too.

    “Apple’s The Only Tech Company With Proper Factory Conditions”.

    Apple don’t own these factories, so get real. 

    Don’t be a hypocrite. 

    Get the rest to fall in line if you can otherwise get off the high horse.

  • 72lions

    Just because Apple might be a little better than the other companies (and again you don’t know that for sure or at least you haven’t provided proof for that) that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t improve even more. You should NEVER compare yourself (Apple) with other companies so that you can justify the fact that Apple is still using Foxconn. When are you fanboys going to wake up?

    @melci:disqus 17 suicides in 5 years is a big number! And that is because all suicides happend inside Foxconn! These people were pushed to their limits inside Foxconn. Other might cope better but I don’t see the company helping people that just can’t cope. And it’s Foxconn’s responsibility to help them since it is the company that pushes them. And of course Foxconn is not only working for Apple but Apple by knowing how Foxconn is working and by keep using them, only shows that they support what is happening there.

    @twitter-383599383:disqus Hey man, Apple may not own these companies but it supports the working conditions in these companies! Can’t you see that?

    I totally agree with @Alfred2612:disqus . He is right!

  • AdamC

    You just don’t get it Apple don’t own Foxconn and have no say over whatever business practice they have.

    Say you buy from Walmart means you can influence their business practice or policy, please get real.

  • 72lions

    I think that you didn’t get my point. Apple may not be able to change the working conditions but by employing Foxconn they support what is happening there. Don’t you get that?

  • Martin Hill

    Theodoris, do you have difficulty with simple maths? 17 deaths out of 1.2 million Foxconn workers is a TINY number compared to the 220 deaths out of every million people that occur every year in China (particularly since those 17 deaths were spread out over 5 YEARS,)

    What about this do you not understand?

    We should be congratulating Foxconn on such a miniscule suicide rate that is so vastly lower than even the rate amongst American school kids.

  • 72lions

    I am amazed that you think that 17 suicides because of working conditions is a small number. 1 is a huge number. We are not talking about suicides in a country but in a company. 1 is a big number!

    If 1 suicide happened in the US or any other civilized country because of working conditions people would go crazy like they did when the same happened in France. So why is it any different with Apple and Foxconn?

  • Martin Hill

    Do you really not understand that suicides happen within all companies all over the world for all sorts of reasons including work all of the time. It is an unfortunate fact of our human condition.

    Do you also not understand that the suicides slowed to an even smaller number – a “trickle” – in May 2010 after Foxconn stopped paying out large compensation packages to the families of suicides above and beyond that required by law.

  • twitter-255516221

    I understand everyone’s frustrations on both sides of the arguments, and everyone’s feelings are valued. Even though I am going to comment with an attempt at logic, the emotions of some readers might prevent them from truly understanding. That’s natural, happens to me too, I’m not perfect either.

    Unfortunately Apple is in the headlights due to them suggesting that they are smart, moral, superior, rebels and care about the Earth (this is just great marketing and the masses believe into the illusion that a company has such qualities).  It’s just business and the fanatics that think a company like Apple can do no wrong are the ones most upset and in denial.  Other Apple customers who buy their products but do not religiously follow Apple knew this was going on and wish for Apple to just admit their mistakes, correct them and keep moving.

    I would like for all the companies to be transparent, even though for some it may cause chaos, all the companies should be investigated.  If and when they are, just be prepared for a change on both ends of the spectrum. Manufactures may not meet consumer demands because if the adjustment to new policies and complications. Consumers consume until their is nothing left to consumer…then what happens?

    As consumers, we have been conditioned to be the way we are today, the Apple Fanatics, the Droid followers and everyone else who religiously follows a tech brand and chooses to identify themselves by a brand.  Seeking a relationship and trust in a company is mostly due to consumer frustrations and psychological dependancies. We have been conditioned to be this way, buying more than what we need and feeling uncool or behind if we do not.

    “We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must
    be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been
    entirely consumed. [...] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.” Paul Mazer, 1930’s Wall Street Banker for Lehman Brothers

    I would suggest more people read Edward Bernays’ Book called, Propaganda and see how it relates to today with Apple, other companies and our society in general.

    http://www.whale.to/b/bernays….

    This explains where our society is today too, and it was thought of by people in power long ago. Also why customers are reacting

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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