Child labour used to make iPhone

iPhone production facility

Apple has announced that child labour and other labour violations have been committed by its suppliers in Asia and possibly other parts of the world in the production of their products. They launched an internal audit to look in to these types of violations that their suppliers commit. They use the results and make them public to put pressure on their suppliers to eliminate that type of activity.

You would think that this type of strategy of basically outing yourself would be counter-intuitive but, in fact, it is a practice that the public looks at favourably. It is an example of being responsible for their actions and not trying to hide it until it is found out at some point in the future. It also shows that they are actively looking for abuses and intend to correct them, by making the findings public and pressuring suppliers to change their ways.

You almost forget that the end result is that many abuses including child labour were used to make our iPhones, iPods and Macs. It is a very good strategy to deal with this type of issue and it is obvious that they learned from the mistakes of Nike, Sean John and other companies that had the same violations but were dealt a serious blow in the media because they did not voluntarily announce it. Other than actually making sure this type of thing doesn’t happen in the first place (which I’m sure there are ways they can achieve this, albeit at a cost), the way Apple has handled this situation should be taught in business schools as an example of the responsible way to deal with this type of problem.

With that said, Apple will likely receive less negative attention for this from activists than most other companies because activists have a soft spot for them. Apple is big on being environmentally friendly, progressive thinking and even based near San Francisco (a hub for activists). Also, Apple is actually fairly proactive with their policies regarding the types of abuses that were committed and their internal audit reinforces that. Still, for activists to not lose credibility (something that many of them do quite often) they need to come out against Apple in the same way they would if another company had done the exact same thing.