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Apple’s Record in China

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The Institute of Environmental and Public Health, a Beijing non-profit, has listed Apple as the lowest ranked of the 29 companies it surveyed for issues of responsiveness and transparency of health and environmental concerns in China.

Now it’s hard to say what kind of methodology was used by this group, particularly given what I assume is the hostility of the Chinese government to publicizing this information. Apple’s defenders will say it is being picked on because of its visibility. And possibly this there is some truth to this, not in the big picture but in relation to other corporations. The real issue here is that measuring these factors is nearly impossible because of the complete lack of transparency within supplier companies. That is the responsibility of multinational corporations and governments. Apple, Wal-Mart, and whoever else use contracted suppliers in part to save costs, but also to shield themselves from blame when workers get sick or die or when the factories pollute an entire ecosystem. And yet they are at least as morally and materially guilty as the supply companies since they demand the goods at extremely low prices. Apple could easily step up to the plate, reveal all its suppliers, investigate conditions, ensure healthful workplaces and dignified wages. But then its top executives might have to give up that ivory backscratcher they wanted for Christmas.

You can download the full report on the linked website, but it is in Chinese.

…..But at least Apple workers in China are forced to sign pacts to not commit suicide.

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  • c u n d gulag

    Well, in all fairness, suicide can really fuck-up productivity for a while.

    • Not if you can use zombie workers. Honestly what type of place lets you miss work just because you are dead? Are there no labor standards anywhere anymore?

      • c u n d gulag

        “Are there no labor standards anywhere anymore?”

        Yeah!
        Just because YOU died, doesn’t mean your work ethic had to go with you.

        American corporations need Chinese zombies with a real work ethic!

        • Spud

          But zombies make lousy workers in the long run.

          After a few hours on the job, they usually stop working and try to eat the brains of the nearest supervisor.

          • Hogan

            Give me a couple of golems any time.

          • c u n d gulag

            HA!

            Then they’re fools!

            If their Supervisor had any brains, he’d be their Manager.

            Or, at least that’s the theory in corporate America!

          • firefall

            Well they’re pretty much doomed to failure there

  • The really bizarre thing is that Apple has enormous profit margins. Staggering. That’s their big thing. When they sell through the online store or an Apple Store it’s even larger.

    They don’t do dividends, by and large. So why not spend more on labor?

    It’s pretty weird.

    • Left_Wing_Fox

      HP seems to be coming out of these sort of reports consistently well. I’m somewhat surprised that they don’t try and capitalize on that in their branding.

      • “HP: Our products may be uglier, but they are also more exploitation free!”

        • Left_Wing_Fox

          Hence “somewhat surprised”. ;)

  • Auguste

    But, but, Steve Jobs!

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    Suicide is revolutionary and just works.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      And it’s painless, or so I’ve been told.

  • Adara

    Ugh the report is depressing. The (sort of standard for mainland publications) alarmist play to the emotions style is managing to do a number on me because the subject matter is really sad :(

  • wengler

    Apple products should be the new blood diamonds.

  • HonorableBob

    So, how many of the bloggers and also the commenters here have Apple products?

    HHmmmmmmm???

    Economics is a social science and all about behavior and let’s face it, when it comes down to it, none of this has stopped you from buying thier products.

    If the iPhone were made in America with EPA and unions involved, you couldn’t afford it.

    • Anonymous

      Speak for yourself. May come as a shock to you, but some of us have no Apple products.

    • c u n d gulag

      I also have no Apple products.
      I wish I could.
      But I can’t even afford the shit they make overseas.
      Oh, did I just bust a meme for you, DishonorableBob?

      Go back to FOX, or Rush, or Glenn – I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to sell you some more talking points bullshit.

      • HororableBob

        Hey, just cuz yer a broke-dick doesn’t mean every one is. Look around.

        Better still, ask the bloggers if they have Apple products. Teachers luv Apple.

        • Njorl

          I just don’t see the attraction of Apple products. I swore them off the moment my iPod decided I was violating copyright protection on the pictures I took of my kids.

    • I have never owned any Apple products. But, if they start making stuff cheap enough to afford say by manufacturing in Africa rather than China to save on transport costs maybe I would reconsider. Not to mention labor standards are a lot better here than in China.

    • Njorl

      Very little of what is necessary to produce an iPhone for the US market actually happens in China. The finished product gets shipped from China, so the full manufacturing costs (about $200 out of the $500 pricetag) get creditted to our trade with China. Apple does bear more cost, for advertising and shipping, but those are within the US already, for iPhones sold in the US.

      About $6.00 of the cost of the iPhone is incurred in China, though that number is increasing rapidly. Do you really think that if that work was done in the US, it would price the iPhone out of reach?

      The bulk of the money spent to make an iPhone is in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Doing the work in Korea and Taiwan saves a little in cost. Doing work in Japan is more costly than doing it in the US, but it is more economical for logistical reasons.

      The profit margin on an iPhone is huge. This means that they are charging an optimal price right now which does not take production costs into account. Fairly significant increases in production cost will result in virtually no price increase at all. It is likely that if the iPhone were made entirely in the US, that the price would be about the same, but Apple’s profit would be much smaller.

      Production costs only affect price for lower tier products.

      • Njorl

        I checked and found some errors. Japan’s labor costs have dropped slightly below the US. Taiwan’s labor cost has dropped very rapidly in the last 15 years. If the bulk of the iPhone is made in Taiwan, then moving production to the US would have an effect on the final price, but would not price it out odf reach of consumers.

      • Njorl

        The low unit labor costs in Taiwan make something very clear. They aren’t moving operations to China from the US. They are moving them there from Taiwan. Apple builds the iPhone in China to save about $5.00 per unit. That $5.00 is all profit, with no effecct on price.

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