Apple is back under the spotlight over labor conditions in its supply chain following an explosive report from The Information on Thursday that revealed new details about the company’s reluctance to cut ties with suppliers who violate its ethics policies.
According to the report, Apple learned in 2013 that Suyin Electronics, a China-based company that (at the time) made parts for its MacBooks, was employing underage workers, and despite telling Suyin to address the issue or risk losing business, Apple discovered additional workers as young as 14 years old during an audit just three months later.
But rather than immediately cutting ties with Suyin for violating its supply chain ethics policies — which prohibit child labor and which Apple claims are the “highest standards” — Apple continued to rely on the company for more than three years, according to The Information.
Any company – and their executives – knowingly and willingly using child labour, slave labour, or forced labour anywhere in the world should be tried as if they are committing these heinous acts in their home countries. The body of evidence that Apple is fully aware of its extensive use of child labour and forced labour in e.g. China’s Uighur concentration camps is extensive, and the fact Tim Cook can get away with this without ever having to face the consequences is disgusting. Tim Cook’s fellow Americans get life sentences for less.
Of course, Apple is far from the only company guilty of this – just look at Nestle or Nike, for instance – but being the largest company in the world with the biggest, most arrogant mouth about how “ethical” they are should be the first to end up in court.
It’s easy to judge from the outside.
Let’s assume that some critical component for cellphone manufacturing (say lithium cells or a certain chemical needed to manufacture the Gorilla Glass displays) is only made in China (which is true btw), and somewhere along the opaque production process, there is some child labor or some horrible environmental crimes involved. China refuses to budge and put an end to the practice in order to keep its low-cost electronics products cheap and competitive. What happens then?
China has been on the receiving end of this in the past, having being forced to join the WIPO and pass laws giving copyrights many decades of protection in order to secure the flow of chips and software which back then were manufactured in the West. Now it’s the West’s turn to be on the receiving end by having to accept labor and environmental practices the West considers abhorrent.
Again, what would you do Thom, if the Chinese component was critical?