Last year Foxconn brought some unwanted attention to Apple with a string of strange deaths that occurred at one of its productions facilities. Apple looked into incidents and discovered some employees were overworked but dismissed the other complaints. Apple also supported Foxconn with their unusual efforts to prevent more employee mistreatments. Apple's annual supplier responsibility report has raised concern with Chinese environmental groups and the media which has generated some tension between Apple, the media and suppliers.
What will this souring relationship mean and what can Apple do about it? To find out, hit the break.
Apple is not a private company but they are especially tight around the collar when bad press is involved. The situation with Apple and it's suppliers is a delicate one. Apple relies on major suppliers like Foxconn and Wintek to keep their bottom line as low as possible and for suppliers, Apple contracts pay off well. Of course, Apple expects top notch product quality for the lowest possible price, what company doesn't? Sadly, this pressure may sometimes make suppliers take shortcuts to save costs but result in negative employee and environmental impacts. Ma June of the Center for Public and the Environment, worked on a report called "The Other Side" which accuses Apple of being one of the least responsive companies with respect to health concerns, and had this to say,
While contracts for Apple components are lucrative, the company's rigid quality standards led contractors to do whatever they can to ensure their products pass muster.
The supplier responsibility report outlined problems at over 80 of their suppliers. Many of which were longstanding problems with underaged employment and overworking of employees. At one factory alone there were 42 underaged workers. Apple has also ordered some manufacturers to payback $3.4 million in overcharges to employment agencies that provide contract laborers from southeast Asia. Poor working conditions were also noted in many facilities and this resulted in several dozen workers being poisoned by n-hexane which Wintek used to clean screens instead of alcohol.
These continuing problems present a tricky situation for Apple because they might actually have to consider making concessions to maintain "healthy" relationships with business partners for a change and that is something Apple is just not really willing to ever do.