Recently, I was asked by a journalist about Apple’s corporate social responsibility manufacturing in China. I posted by full response to his question below.
My name is Daniel M. Ladik and I am as Associate Professor of Marketing in the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University. Your request was forwarded to me as my main areas of teaching and research expertise include marketing strategy and social media/Web 2.0, as well as, personal selling and sales management. I blog at www.dignuggetville.com. I am also an Apple aficionado – see previous Apple comments in Forbes Magazine (click here)
The question you seek has a very simple answer – YES. Apple has a greater responsibility, compared to many other firms who also manufacture in China and elsewhere around the world because that is what leading firms do. Apple is the most valuable company in the world and with that title should also include providing leadership for other companies to follow.
In comparison to Nike, who for years dodged (or at least attempted to dodge) the foreign manufacturing criticisms by proclaiming “we do not manufacture anything – Nike is just a marketing and design firm,” Apple has been at least significantly more forthright in their efforts to address this issue directly.
First, in the bottom right hand corner of Apple’s home page (apple.com) – clearly displayed – is Apple’s “Supplier Responsibility Code of Conduct Report.” Not only is the report not buried deep within the Apple web site, the report also significantly documents Apple’s efforts to monitor is suppliers over the years. Second, this issue is so important that CEO Tim Cook (who by the way, was responsible for honing and cultivating Apple’s supplier network over the years leading to his COO position and eventually CEO job), was in New York City to personally address the issue (see the transcription here). Can you name one other technology firm that has gone to the lengths that Apple has? No.
That said, is that enough? NO. Apple has the ability to apply more leverage over these suppliers for their lack of compliance therefore improving the working conditions at their suppliers – – and I believe they will as per Mr. Cook’s comments. People have the right to boycott Apple and if they feel that is the right thing to do – by all means – do so. At the same time, consumers should boycott Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Motorola, Toshiba and dozens of other major brands Foxconn contract manufactures. This issue is much bigger than a simple boycott.
In my personal opinion, I feel Apple should once again get back into the manufacturing business or at least, the final assembly business here in the United States (or at least NAFTA and Mexico). Everything Chinese workers are manually doing in these very labor intensive factories could also be done via robots and humans in US factories. If Detroit can rebuild itself and its factories like it has over the past 10 to 15 years, the rest of manufacturing, like Apple, could also “get back into the game.” President Obama and Washington could provide the juicy incentives to make this happen. Why not? The US economy could depend on it.
If you have any questions about the above comments or would like further detail, please contact me at the email address below.
Associate Professor of Marketing
Stillman School of Business
Seton Hall University