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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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  • Then what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @02:46PM (#38706956)
    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)?
    • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @02:53PM (#38706994)
      Look, we live in a world now of Capitalism.
      There is no give and take where Capitalism and socialism melded together to form a better world for us all.
      Instead, it is all about the money and not about those that get trampled on in that endeavor.
      So, if you want to placate the masses, you offer empty gestures and convoluted solutions to problems that will never go away in a Capitalistic society.
      Dont even think about "voting with your wallet", as there is no competition anymore. Patenting everything from taking a shit to clicking a button took care of that.
      • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by forkfail (228161) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:04PM (#38707078)

        Doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

        The world may be royally screwed up; as individuals, we may not have a whole lot of power to do anything about the Way Things Are (tm), but that shouldn't stop us from striving. If nothing else, there is intrinsic value in the attempt. And who knows - enough individuals exerting pressure may, if not radically change the nature of man and the world, at least mitigate the damage of some of the worst that we do.

        • by jhoegl (638955)
          I am not saying dont try, I was responding to the current state of affairs that brought us to this point.
          Perhaps public pressure will do it, but then again public pressure over 2 years evolved into this retort by Apple.
          Perhaps "voting with your wallet" will do it, but then again it will take a long time, an expensive effort, and people caring to make it happen.
          Perhaps voting in people that will take these issues seriously will be the ticket, but then again... read above.
          So yes, change can happen, but in
          • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:29PM (#38707238)

            Perhaps "voting with your wallet" will do it, but then again it will take a long time, an expensive effort, and people caring to make it happen.

            Unfortunately, nobody cares enough. Did people even reduce their purchases of new electronics when they learned about the conflict minerals situation, or did they forget about the war the minute they saw a new cell phone on the market? Did people stop buying sneakers when they found out that children were being forced to work to produce the shoes? People in America simply do not care about the troubles of other countries, as long as they can continue to live comfortable high-tech lives.

            If people were willing to do something like this, we could affect change:

            http://library.thinkquest.org/26504/ [thinkquest.org]

            • by forkfail (228161)

              Well, while it's quite probable that very, very few people actually took conscious action based on their knowledge, that knowledge is the sort of thing that impacts sales.

              Advertisers and marketing firms are very aware of the importance of perception and image. People are rarely completely consciously aware of all the factors that play into a buying decision, but if it's in their mind that oil company X spilled oil and never cleaned it up, they're reasonably likely to drive on by that company's gas station

      • Look, we live in a world now of Capitalism.
        There is no give and take where Capitalism and socialism melded together to form a better world for us all.

        Yes there is, thankfully. As a rule of thumb it can be found in anything that extreme libertarians grumble about. If you look around this site you may find one or two. Try here [slashdot.org] for starters.

      • by ediron2 (246908)
        And our response needs to be a loud shout: "SEE! Capitalism is incapable of selfregulating." We've lost pensions and the old social contract with our employers that if we worked hard, we'd always have a decent job. The corporate response to environmental protections is a roving exportation target for where to dump the dirty stuff and dirty work. The foxconn conditions are deplorable, as are conditions in southwest Afghanistan, coastal India, Niger, and anywhere else that both lacks economic protections
    • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:02PM (#38707060)
      You mean this statement:

      Yes. We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.

      Apple can ask their suppliers to use conflict free minerals (which they do). But technically Steve is correct; To guarantee that the minerals were 100% conflict free (indirectly through suppliers' suppliers) is an impossible task that even Dell acknowledged [dell.com].

      The mining of these minerals takes place long before a final product is assembled, making it difficult, if not impossible, to trace the minerals' origins. In addition, many of the minerals are smelted together with recycled metals, and at that point it is virtually impossible to trace the minerals to their source.

      The problem is hard enough for conflict free diamonds and each of those gems can be uniquely identified and separated. How do you identify the source of every single particle in a product that is smelted with other materials?

      • a few other things that are impossible:

        taking egghead computer theories and making them into products for children

        ripping out the guts of BSD and putting it into a consumer phone

        working out deals with the music industry, a notoriously insular, backwards, conservative, static industry, to distribute its product over a whole new channel and create a new type of industry.

        making a 8 inch 'pad' that works like a computer and people will buy

        bringing back a nearly bankrupt, listing disaster of a corporation and tu

        • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:36PM (#38707294)
          There is technically impossible and realistically difficult. All these things you mentioned were difficult but achievable through work and determination. Technically can you identify the origin of single particles in a smelt? In the world of Star Trek, all it takes is a tricorder but technically in the real world how do you do so? If you have theories please list them here or better yet, tell Apple and Dell and Panasonic (and all the electronic manufacturers). They would like to know.
    • by Kenja (541830)
      Then what? Then they will see if people actually care enough to stop using Apple products. They will find that they dont, and life will go on.
    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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.

        1. We do not have to use tantalum. There have always been alternatives, and now there are alternatives that meet or exceed tantalum's characteristics.
        2. How much did Apple invest in research on tantalum alternatives, while they were busy "wowing" people with devices built using tantalum (and by extension, financing the war)?
        3. The problem with conflict minerals is simple: people are committing war crimes in Africa while fighting over mineral deposits. That is not an acceptable situation and mineral suppliers sho
        • Re:Then what? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gutnor (872759) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @05:00PM (#38707866)

          Why not hire some American, Canadian, or European workers to produce electronics? It would eat into profits and drive up prices?

          You know, in a free(-ish) market, this is not a choice. You must use the cheapest, most profitable method that is available. The reason is that if you don't, somebody else will, and they will eventually drive you out of business.

          The real question is not why Apple do not hire American, it why people do not want to buy american. If the consumer does not care about what/who made his gadget, the condition, moral, social impact, ... then they will get the cheapest possible standard for all those criteria. Consumers drive the show.

          Actually, the fact that Apple is even looking at the problem, means that there is pressure coming from the consumer. This is a good thing. Save your energy bashing Apple and use it instead to inform the consumer.

          • by ediron2 (246908)
            Well put: a pure capitalism mechanism seems hell-bent on lowest cost at any cost (letting others pay for labor abuses, environmental damage, and gaming national workforces against each other in a race for the bottom). Which is precisely where unions and governmental protections (including international trade regulations) come into play.
          • You know, in a free(-ish) market, this is not a choice. You must use the cheapest, most profitable method that is available. The reason is that if you don't, somebody else will, and they will eventually drive you out of business.

            Apple isn't leading the market based on price - their products are among the most expensive. It seems that using cheap labour simply maximizes their profit. I'd be interested in seeing a real justification that Apple would go out of business or lose their place in the market if th

        • If you read the Steve Jobs biography, he's quoted as telling the President that the reason Apple doesn't manufacture in the US has nothing to do with labor costs. The reason is that they can't get the 30,000 manufacturing engineers necessary to support 700,000 factory workers because the education system is fucked. China has no problem producing the engineers necessary to keep such a factory going.

          Jobs' two meetings with Obama in 2010 and 2011 are detailed in the new biography of the Apple leader by autho

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

      by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,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.

    • Apple has learnt is lesson and I'm pretty sure this time Steve Jobs won't throw his hands up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2012 @02:52PM (#38706988)

    Look. Almost EVERY company that makes almost EVERYTHING in your home participates in the awful near-slave manufacturing that goes on in China and other third world countries.

    Their motivation aside, Apple is by far one of the best and most responsible manufacturers, simply by doing the (very very) little that they do. Singling out Apple is just Apple hate.

    • Their motivation aside, Apple is by far one of the best and most responsible manufacturers, simply by doing the (very very) little that they do. Singling out Apple is just Apple hate.

      I don't know why but that comment reminded me of this cartoon for some reason (NSFW).

      http://www.oglaf.com/relief/ [oglaf.com]

    • Jan 1st the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act came into effect - Apple didn't do this because of This American Life, they've been brought kicking and screaming to this point by the politicians and public opinion in general

    • by antdude (79039)

      Is there a list for each company? I'd love to see what companies companies use.

  • Labour standards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @02:53PM (#38706992)
    A foreign country should not be able to sell goods in a country like the US (or any other) unless it follows the labour standards of the country it is selling its goods in.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Soooo flip that on end. Does that mean in the US we can follow the labor rules of china if we only sell to them?

      And yes I am being a smart ass...

    • Totally agree. I've proposed this before, and it's really the only solution to the problems of globalism. The US and EU should be imposing import tariffs on anything imported from places with laxer worker rights and environmental protection.
      • by vakuona (788200)

        As a former resident, and still a citizen of a developing country, I will say to you that that is the most protectionist bullshit I have ever heard. Poor countries have _one_ competitive advantage - the ability to charge and work for lower wages (including worse working conditions) than the developed countries. Any form of legislation that forces poor countries to raise conditions is in effect attempting to forcibly remove their competitive advantage and keep their people in perpetual poverty. Western capit

    • by perlchild (582235)

      Following this logic, short on Wal-Mart, immediately, their entire business is based on importing products that would be more expensive if they were made according to the labour standards of the US.

      Hint:
      China does NOT have to sell to you.

      If you somehow managed to get the EU and the US to do a joint bill, it might maybe work.

      But which rules would then apply? Aren't labour rules state rules in the US? (And Canada, and a a lot of other places except the EU, which has member states who have such rules)

  • 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.

    • by dissy (172727)

      I believe you mean the hd44780 controller.

      I too have a box of such LCDs, and wrote a few LCDproc modules back in the day.

      You are quire correct about all the companies involved with the raw construction of the LCD, not to mention the HD chip itself was another addition made by a separate OEM company. These days there are plenty of additional controllers that can sit between that chip and either the LCD (to provide pixel based addressing commands) and the user (4 bit parallel? Too hard for most, so now there

    • 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.
  • And here I thought Apple products were made high in the mountains of California by gnomes who sprinkled magic pixie dust on them before shipping.......

  • by mlc (16290) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:14PM (#38707136) Homepage
    The FLA was formed by the apparel industry as a front to make it look like they were doing something to protect the workers in their factories. Now the electronics industry may be joining, but there's no reason to suspect they'll suddenly gain a new appreciation for something other than PR.
    • They'll gain an excuse to increase prices to consumers, on the illusion they are improving worker conditions and paying them more.

  • 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.'
    ...which will have to report favorable findings if it wishes to operate in that country.

    • ...which will have to report favorable findings if it wishes to operate in that country.

      And you are an idiot. Read this here: http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/ [apple.com] Trying to influence the findings in any audit is a sure way for a company to lose their business with Apple.

      • And you are a naif.

        Imagine morale at my factory is poor. Well, I'm going to start beating my employees--and I'll continue to beat my employees until their morale improves. That would probably cause me to lose my business with Apple. So I really have nothing to lose by trying to bribe the auditor, do I?

        The beauty of this is that when this all comes out, Apple can say, "Well, Gosh! We didn't know this was happening! We'll do something about this right away!" and will proceed to cancel both of those contr

  • by Lucas123 (935744) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:40PM (#38707324) Homepage
    I don't see Anobit on that list of suppliers. And, considering Apple just acquired Anobit for its NAND flash ECC firmware, it makes me wonder why they'd do that without having even used its product first. Or could this list from Apple be only what it's willing to reveal?
    • by Telvin_3d (855514)

      Or it could be that, having acquired Anobit, Apple no longer considers them a separate company. Or perhaps Apple had not been dealing with Anobit directly, but rather through a third party who is on the list. Or that the list was compiled from sources that lag behind actual production by a number of months and Anobit will show up on the next update. Lots of possible reasons without having to stretch for a conspiracy.

    • by gnasher719 (869701) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @04:36PM (#38707718)

      I don't see Anobit on that list of suppliers. And, considering Apple just acquired Anobit for its NAND flash ECC firmware, it makes me wonder why they'd do that without having even used its product first. Or could this list from Apple be only what it's willing to reveal?

      Anobit is an engineering company in Israel. If you are worried about their working conditions, shouldn't you be much more worried about the working conditions of software developers in the US gaming industry? Do you think they are subject to cruel treatment, like having to use Windows on a Dell computer?

  • I don't see Corning Corporation on the list, which puzzles me. I thought that Apple uses Gorilla Glass in a bunch of their products?

    • by perpenso (1613749)

      I don't see Corning Corporation on the list, which puzzles me. I thought that Apple uses Gorilla Glass in a bunch of their products?

      If so Corning may license the process to another manufacturer and not do the manufacturing themselves.

      • by Guy Harris (3803)

        I don't see Corning Corporation on the list, which puzzles me. I thought that Apple uses Gorilla Glass in a bunch of their products?

        If so Corning may license the process to another manufacturer and not do the manufacturing themselves.

        Or they might buy touchscreen front panels, built with Gorilla Glass, from some other vendor.

  • AAwwwOne For the money, Two For the show ..
  • Then Apple realizes to cut costs on storage, appends the list to next years litagation itinerary..

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    -Hackus

  • by Asmor (775910) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @07:15PM (#38708910) Homepage

    I really enjoyed the This American Life episode mentioned in the summary, and one of the things I found really interesting was the second part.

    The first part was all about the terrible conditions the guy found at Foxcon and other manufacturers. The second part was all about what we should take away from this.

    The general concensus is that, yeah, these factories are terrible, but they're actually a step up from the abject poverty the 3rd world would otherwise be in. Even more surprising, things are improving. Factories are starting, ever so slowly, to compete with each other for workers, and that means they're easing off on hours and otherwise making incremental improvements to the workers' quality of life.

    This isn't to say that we should be okay with how the workers are treated. Simply that, given a choice between no sweatshops or sweatshops as they currently exist, the workers are actually better off with the sweatshops. And sweatshops are really the first step on the ladder of development. The industrialized Western countries went through very similar pains during the industrial revolution. In a few generations, Chinese working conditions might actually look a lot more like turn-of-the-century American working conditions, even without outside pressure.

    • by glodime (1015179)

      given a choice between no sweatshops or sweatshops as they currently exist, the workers are actually better off with the sweatshops.

      The choice isn't limited to no sweatshops or sweatshops as they currently exist. It may be an improvement over the past period of no sweatshops, but no one is proposing that factories be closed and not replaced. The challenge is how to improve things further given the consequences of global politics, culture and economics. To simply call it a win because it is better than one conceivable alternative or has improved from the past is unethical.

      • by sessamoid (165542)

        given a choice between no sweatshops or sweatshops as they currently exist, the workers are actually better off with the sweatshops.

        The choice isn't limited to no sweatshops or sweatshops as they currently exist. It may be an improvement over the past period of no sweatshops, but no one is proposing that factories be closed and not replaced. The challenge is how to improve things further given the consequences of global politics, culture and economics. To simply call it a win because it is better than one conceivable alternative or has improved from the past is unethical.

        And one way to "improve things further" is the path that Apple as taken, to hold their suppliers accountable for working conditions. How many other tech companies are doing this? Where are the news stories decrying their use of "slave labor" (which is already inaccurate to begin with)?

        • by glodime (1015179)

          My comment was directed specifically to "the choice between no sweatshops or sweatshops". I have noticed NPR and many mainstream media reporters and commentators like to present a "silver lining" which is often just false a dichotomy or other logical fallacy and a disservice to the quality of the story presented. This seems to be the case here. It otherwise seems like a good report.

          And one way to "improve things further" is the path that Apple as taken, to hold their suppliers accountable for working conditions.

          Agreed.

          How many other tech companies are doing this?

          I have no idea. However, given the "me too" impulses of many modern CEOs, I hope that Apple's publicity will spark more

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