In the past few months, Apple recent came under fire for its use of overseas labor in possibly harsh conditions. As a followup and throwback to our Globalization and Corporate Responsibility class, this little webpage caught my eye today. It appears Apple has concluded a recent investigation of the allegations and has posted a response on their website. An excerpt from Apple’s report:
We found no instances of forced overtime and employees confirmed in interviews that they could decline overtime requests without penalty. We did, however, find that employees worked longer hours than permitted by our Code of Conduct, which limits normal workweeks to 60 hours and requires at least one day off each week. We reviewed seven months of records from multiple shifts of different productions lines and found that the weekly limit was exceeded 35% of the time and employees worked more than six consecutive days 25% of the time. Although our Code of Conduct allows overtime limit exceptions in unusual circumstances, we believe in the importance of a healthy work-life balance and found these percentages to be excessive.
I guess the socially-responsible business is catching on. But how much of this is really just a response to Apple’s nearly untouchable image as the “hippest” consumer electronic product producer in town vs. Apple really caring about Chinese labor? It is difficult to tell without really taking a deep dive into Apple’s social responsibility codes. Apple’s supplier code of conduct is fairly new, released in 2005 which seems a bit behind the other companies featured in our case reading.
History of Apple and the Environment (from Apple.com)
- 1990 – Appleâ€™s environmental policy released and implemented.
- 1991 – Phase-out of lead in batteries in advance of the 1996 European battery directive.
- 1992 – Phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in Apple manufacturing, as stipulated in the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.
- 1992 – Founding member of the US EPA ENERGY STARÂ® program, developed to identify and promote energy efficient computers and monitors.
- 1994 – Phase-out of NiCad batteries in advance of the 1996 European battery directive.
- 1995 – PVC in packaging materials phased out.
- 1996 – First voluntary Apple product take-back program initiated in Germany (gradual expansion to other regions).
- 1996 – First Apple manufacturing site (Sacramento, CA) ISO 14001 certified.
- 1997 – First Apple products tested for conformity to TCO (Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees) standards.
- 1999 – Introduction of the Apple Product Environmental Specification (APES) files.
- 1999 – Lead and cadmium in cables restricted.
- 2000 – All Apple manufacturing sites ISO 14001 certified worldwide, signifying that Apple has a structured environmental management system (EMS) in place to manage the environmental impact of our operations.
- 2001 – All Apple computers and displays meet applicable ENERGY STARÂ® requirements. They continue to do so.
- 2001 – Started voluntary phase-out of tetrabisphenol A (TBBA) in all plastic enclosure parts >25 grams.
- 2002 – Product take-back solutions implemented in the US and Japan.
- 2002 – Roll-out of Appleâ€™s global Regulated Substances Specification.
- 2002 – Signatory of European Union Code of Conduct on Power Supplies, created to encourage manufacturers to design power supplies that minimize energy consumption in off mode.
- 2002 – Founding member of US Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), which introduced energy efficiency requirements for the off mode of computer products.
- 2003 – Implementation of supplier survey initiative on substance use.
- 2004 – Investigation into halogen-free cable enclosures and printed circuit boards initiated.
- 2004 – Phase-out of substances restricted by the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) initiated.
- 2005 – Implementation of the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct, which governs environmental, health and safety, and human rights issues in Appleâ€™s supply chain.
- 2006 – Apple products are compliant with the European Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment, also known as the RoHS directive.
Perhaps the boat left without them and they are playing catchup. At any rate, you can be the judge. Another case to consider.