Over the last couple years, Apple and Foxconn have been partaking in poor business methods thus causing them a great deal of deserved criticism. The consumer, must decide whether or not to continue buying from Apple because the consumer is what causes Apple to continue to make new products which results in the poor conditions at Foxconn. Foxconn and Apple violate many ethical, moral and basic human principles.
Over the past several years, Apple’s major hardware and development contributor, Foxconn, has received a great deal of criticism over their working conditions and benefits. There are over a dozen Foxconn factories in China, all of which employ hundreds of thousands of people. To this day Foxconn remains the leader in electronic component manufacturing. Since 2010, various accounts of mistreatment of employees have arose, causing many controversies.
The most significant to date, are the many reported suicides of Foxconn plant workers. In early June, the most recent suicide occurred of twenty three year old man. It was the first suicide since Foxconn agreed with the United States and Apple to improve working conditions (Foxconn Suicide, 2012). Prior to this suicide, there had been over a dozen suicides in direct correlation to the poor working conditions and low pay.
Various news reports and documentaries arose in 2012 exposes this supposedly giant scandal. Apple, one of the worlds most prominent developers of consumer electronics, is making numerous attempts to fix the current issues at Foxconn. “The move comes after Apple, criticized over working conditions at its sprawling chain of suppliers in China, agreed to an investigation by the independent Fair Labor Association earlier this year to stem criticism that its products were built in sweatshop-like conditions” (Foxconn Suicide, 2012). The next several years will be dedicated to making Foxconn a positively labeled corporation thus giving Apple is good reputation back.
The Impact on a Stakeholder Group (Consumer)
As a consistent consumer of Apple products over the last decade, one can only be disappointed in the decisions made by Apple. Of course the consumers were not directly involved in the poor conditions of the company or the deaths of many workers. In reality, we the consumers, are indirectly contributing to the current issues at Foxconn. We choose to purchase their products, buy stocks and invest our hard earned money into a company that chooses to do things the easy way rather than the smart way. In a report written by the Insider Staff in 2012 called Apple, Foxconn and China:
The Cost of Manufacturing, they said “Think of your iPhone you would as a hamburger—the meat was once part of a living, breathing animal. Its life was taken so you could have lunch. This is the price for the type of life we lead, whether it’s the price we pay to buy something once living that’s now a package of hamburger or the price for a brand-new iPhone.” The iPhone, Macbooks and iPods we purchase were all at one point a collection of parts. Thanks to the many news reports, we realize that these parts are stained with the blood, sweat and tears of the many workers just trying to make a living.
The consumer is the most affected party in this scenario. We choose to purchase Apple’s new products for lower prices and faster shipping. We demand Apple to make newer products knowing that we will then buy them. Through these actions taken by the consumers, it allows for all the problems occurring at the Foxconn factories to continue. Apple does deserve come credit for the attempts they have made to fix all of the previously stated issues. “There is no question that Foxconn has been scrutinized because it produces products for Apple. Also a few years ago there were a number of suicides at Foxconn factories, which prompted labor groups to start looking into working conditions there.
Apple sent a team to China, including a group led by Tim Cook, who is now Apple’s CEO. Apple also hired the non-profit Fair Labor Association to audit working conditions at Foxconn. The group has said that Foxconn has made progress at reducing workers’ hours and improving conditions, and that Foxconn and Apple do make an effort to let students know they can resign from Foxconn and still graduate, and link the jobs they do at Apple with their studies” (Adams, 2012). The Fair Labor Association conducted a two week examination of the company to make sure it was up to date on all laws and regulations. Foxconn has raised all workers salaries by 16 to 25 percent.
They have chosen to hire tens of thousands of more workers so that never again would an individual die from working a thirty hour shift. The FLA conducts interviews of over a hundred thousand employees to make sure they are content and have no serious, life threatening issues with Foxconn (Poeter, 2012). They correct steps have been taken to regain Apple’s status as an ethical and beneficial company, while also fixing all of Apple’s supplier companies like Foxconn.
There were many ethical dilemmas after the Foxconn Apple scandal was exposed. A CNN documentary team went there and filmed the companies average work day. On January 29th the CNN report appeared which displayed graphic images of the Foxconn factory. “The segment graphically showed the suicide nets and the factory, it showed workers reportedly as young as 12 who worked shifts as long as 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week. It also reported on the death of one worker who died at work after a shift of more than 30 hours.
There’s no question these condition approach the emotional feeling of slavery, if not legal definition. What’s missing from the conversation is that Foxconn builds electronics products for a wide variety of companies, not just Apple” (Apple, Foxconn and China, 2012). All of the previously stated conditions violate countless ethical laws. In an article called Business Ethics- Issues written by Jim Riley, he says that a business can not claim to be ethical if the violate ethical practices such as child labor, production is sweatshops, violation of basic rights and ignoring health and safety issues.
Foxconn violated absolutely every single one of these practices. The employed children to work and had them working shifts just as long as your average adult would. The physical conditions of the company were terrible, people were hardly allowed to eat, grime and dirt layered the floors and people worked countless hours shoulder to shoulder. Some have even chosen to compare it to Nazi death camps and the blood diamond controversies in Africa.
Due to the constant allegations and controversies, Apple has taken giant steps towards creating a bright future. Apple sent in a Chief Operating Officer to the Chinese facility. The team interviewed more than one thousand workers along with creating a 24-hour care center (Sherr, 2011).
Since 2007 Apple has audited 288 supplier facilities and even continues to do so even if it mean no longer working with them. Apple has found 91 underage workers in these facilities and will break off any ties to those who choose to overlook the issue. Apple is working hard to establish a good reputation for itself. They are pushing their supplier factories to follow every ethical and business guideline so that we the consumer can be happy and comfortable with the products we are purchasing.
Analysis of Solution/Actions
The 7 Guidelines for Making Ethical Decisions are a perfect example of the rules in which Apple and Foxconn decided to disobey. Firstly, the TV Test states that managers should always ask, “would they feel comfortable explain this to a TV audience?” Going back to Foxconn and Apple the clear and most obvious answer to this question is NO. Apple and Foxconn hid every negative aspect of the company for over two years. It was not until 2012 where CNN was allowed to go in and film the factory. If the numerous child workers, poor conditions and suicides were exposed earlier, this issue may have been resolved by now.
Instead Foxconn covered up the scandal and allowed it to grow and infest throughout the company. Secondly, every child was raised by the Golden Rule, treat others they way you want to be treated. From the managers perspective, they chose to get things done rather than doing them the right way. What this means is that managers did not obey any ethical rules, rather they pushed workers to the extreme so that they could make as many products as possible.
In conclusion, Apple’s and Foxconn’s violations were unacceptable. However, Apple has taken the right approach in correcting all of the issues at Foxconn. Whether or not it works, Apple has done all they can. Now it lies in the hands of the stakeholders to continue to or not to buy the companies products.
Adams, S. (2012). Apple’s New Foxconn Embarrassment. Forbes.Com, 8.
Apple, Foxconn and China: The Human Cost of Manufacturing. (2012). Channel Insider, 1-2.
Foxconn Suicide: Company Says Plant Worker Jumped From Apartment. (2012, June 14). HuffingtonPost. Retrieved October 7, 2012, from http://foxconn suicide: Company says plant worker jumped from apartment . (2012, June 14). . Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/14/foxconn-suicide_n_1596138.html
Poeter, D. (2012). Report: Apple Supplier Foxconn Raises Worker Pay at Chinese Plants. PC Magazine, 1.
Riley, J. (2012, 9 23). Business ethics- issues. Retrieved from http://www.tutor2u.net/business/strategy/business-ethics-issues.html
SHERR, I. (2011, February 15). Apple Says China Partner Made Changes For Workers. Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition. p. B5.