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Apple To Release List of Companies That Build Its Products Around the World 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the knowing-the-source dept.
mathfeel writes "Indulge me in some post hoc reasoning here: After last week's episode of This American Life 'Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,' a very interesting show, Apple announced that 'For the first time, Apple has released a list of companies that build its products around the world. In another first, the company also announced that it will allow an independent third party to check on working conditions at those factories, and to make its findings public.' But before you celebrate Apple's gesture (or complain about the potential increase in electronic price): 'It doesn't appear that Apple's partnership with the FLA will increase transparency in this regard either. The FLA will audit 5% of the factories that make Apple products, but like Apple, it will not name which ones it checks or where it finds violations.'"
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Apple To Release List of Companies That Build Its Products Around the World

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  • How many steps? (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:02PM (#38707066)

    How many steps?

    Like many on /., maybe, I've purchased bare LCD modules. You know the type, HM(whatever it was) protocol, in the olden days you'd have to provide offboard neg voltage to control contrast. Anyway the relevant point is there's about ten companies between my OEM LCD modules and some dude digging stuff outta the ground. One company does nothing but turn purified chemicals into glass. Another company runs the refinery that makes the resin that gets mixed by another company with fiberglass and has a sheet of copper stuck on to it to make bare PCB material. Another mixes ingots of lead and tin (in the past, anyway) and a couple other elements and casts ingots of solder for the wave soldering machine (since replaced by reflow process using paste). I might have a window into the LCD board stuffing assembly plant, but I have no idea whats going on at ye olde tin smelter or the other 99% of the people who built my LCD modules.

    I know many apple products are mostly OEM devices. They hardly make their own accelerometers in their own silicon foundries. I'm not sure if its relevant to even bother watching the 1% of the population at the assembly plant... In fact the further you are from final assembly, the worse things seem to be, at least in my factory experience.

  • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gnasher719 (869701) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:25PM (#38707212)

    They will check working conditions and...then do what when they find violations? Is there any reason to think that Apple will stop doing business with factories that mistreat workers? Is this going to be another sham like Apple's treatment of the conflict minerals situation (where Steve Jobs basically threw his hands up and said that Apple could do nothing about it)?

    1. Apple actually _has_ stopped doing business with companies in the past due to mistreating workers and other reasons. Apple has also in the last year made companies repay $3.3 million in fees that workers paid to agencies to find jobs.

    2. The situation with "conflict minerals" is actually a lot more difficult than you think. There are plenty of honest and hard-working communities losing out at the moment because nobody knows what paperwork would have to be filled out to be allowed to buy their products.

  • Re:Then what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:30PM (#38707258)

    How about not using tantalum?

    That isn't what was asked. Jobs was asked whether they use conflict minerals and he answered truthfully that is impossible to guarantee 100% that they don't as they can only really control a few levels of manufacturing. Your solution to replace tantalum which only addresses one of the many minerals that are in question. That doesn't really solve the whole problem. Also, since the main source of tantalum [wikipedia.org] is Australia which isn't a conflict region, all that really does is take away a legitimate source.

    As for Steve Jobs' statement, why not apply it to working conditions as well? After all, Apple must have its factories in other countries, just like they must use conflict metals, so how are they supposed to ensure that the factories are not mistreating workers? Dell does it too, right?

    Well, Apple asks that their suppliers follow humane working conditions but can they control every aspect of the supply chain? Can they guarantee that their suppliers' suppliers do the same? No company can and for the record, Dell (and many other companies) uses the same manufacturers as Apple. For instance Foxconn [wikipedia.org].

  • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @04:17PM (#38707586)

    (and all the profit they made on iProducts, which were all made using conflict minerals)

    Presumably you're saying that for some reason more than just "they contain tantalum capacitors", as tantalum isn't ipso facto a conflict mineral, unless you're counting Australian rules football and capoeira matches as "conflicts" [indexmundi.com]. E.g., perhaps most or all of the tantalum used in capacitors comes from those countries, or perhaps most or all of the tantalum used in capacitors used in Chinese factories comes from those countries, etc..

    Actually, in 2009, Australian production dropped significantly [usgs.gov] ("The Government of Western Australia reported that tantalite production was 105 t of contained tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) in 2009 compared with 680 t of contained Ta2O5 in 2008 (Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines and Petroleum, 2010, p. 23)."), due to a mine suspending operation due to market conditions ("Talison Minerals Pty. Ltd. suspended production at the Wodgina Mine, the world’s leading producing operation of tantalum ore, owing to the global financial downturn and greater market share going to central Africa, where tantalum minerals were mined under conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses [northeastern regions of Congo (Kinshasa)]."). So the chances that the tantalum in a capacitor was conflict tantalum went up substantially in 2009. Dunno what's happened since then. (See the Wikipedia article on coltan [wikipedia.org] for summary tables.)

  • Re:How many steps? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ZigMonty (524212) <slashdot@@@zigmonty...postinbox...com> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @04:20PM (#38707608)
    Sorta like a pencil [econlib.org], taking it to the extreme.
  • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jo_ham (604554) <joham999 @ g m a i l.com> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @04:25PM (#38707634)

    Actually yes, in Apple's most recent audit report they mention that they have actually stopped using some suppliers after finding continued violations of their working practices.

    Joining the FLA just adds a further layer of third party oversight.

    They've been releasing these audits publicly since 2007, but this time (presumably after Steve was out of the picture) they have decided more PR is required in response to all the "suicide iPad factory zomg!" stories.

    Like any large company that outsources labour, they are not going to have a spotless record.

    The summary, in obvious slashdot fashion, is doing the best it can to make this announcement as negative as possible, but the fact of the matter is the audits themselves being public is not new (although the supplier list is), and that the FLA's role is one of third party auditing and they have access to the whole of Apple's supply chain - that they'll only audit a small percentage each time (of their choosing) is more an indication of their manpower and the vast size of Apple's operations than anything else.

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