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

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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  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2012 @02:57PM (#38707018)

    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...

  • 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 [].

    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?

  • 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.

  • 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: []

  • 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.
  • Re:Then what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:36PM (#38707298)

    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 should be refusing to ship minerals that were obtained in that region; if the mineral suppliers cannot be trusted not to ship central African tantalum, then all the tantalum producers will have to suffer until the conflict in Africa is over.

    Really, all of these arguments apply to working conditions. Why does Apply have to make use of factories in countries with poor labor laws? Why not hire some American, Canadian, or European workers to produce electronics? It would eat into profits and drive up prices? So would switching away from tantalum and other conflict minerals.

  • by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:55PM (#38707412)

    See, this is why most companies just say 'screw it, ignore the entire mess'

    I doubt there is a single person on Slashdot who can honestly say that they don't own a single thing that was produced at some level using what is effectively slave labor. Apple is doing more than 99% of companies do to ensure that their workers are treated properly around the world. Not perfect, but better than most. And the reward for even acknowledging the problem is righteous condemnation from the peanut gallery while companies that brush it under the rug get a pass.

  • Re:Then what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jaymz666 ( 34050 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @04:42PM (#38707756)

    It conveys the sentiment. Unthinking masses of people who only want to be trendy and follow the herd. Sheeple.

  • 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.

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

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @05:01PM (#38707874)

    It conveys the sentiment. Unthinking masses of people who only want to be trendy and follow the herd. Sheeple.

    Problem is, "unthinking" also applies to the one using the Apple/sheeple meme. It's just a knee-jerk response that doesn't add anything to the conversation. It's basically a smug way of stating one's own (perceived) superiority while conveniently ignoring the wider problem - the fact that this is a wider issue that touches most all tech-related companies we do business with, not just Apple.

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

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@ g m a> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @05:02PM (#38707886)

    It's immature and a sweeping generalisation, but you know that.

    In the same way that not all Linux users are unwashed, friendless nerds living off hot pockets, rent-free in their parents' basements, not all Apple users are "sheeple".

    To use it as your primary argument just smacks of immaturity and a lack of a real argument.

    I really don't mind debating the pros and cons of Apple, and wider technology stories as a whole, but I've got to have something to go on. If you're just going to stand there and tell me I have silly hair then I'm just going to find an adult to talk to instead.

  • 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 AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @08:48PM (#38709538)
    Chinese slave work? If there was some African country with 95% unemployment and an average wage of $0.50/hr, if someone put a plant there and employed 1,000,000 people at $1/hr, would that be slave work, or an improvement for the workers? Pushing US ideals on everyone doesn't work if they don't share our opinions.
  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Monday January 16, 2012 @01:33AM (#38710922)

    and then, have them ask the people who they bought if from

    and then, they ask the people that they bought it from.

    The first flaw in your scenario is that it ignores recycling and assumes perfect knowledge. While suppliers may know generally where they get original source material, recyclers have no idea where the original source of their material. At best they know the country of the supply of recycled goods, say the US. They cannot know that every single component in a ton of recycled materials did not come from a conflict source. Some of these conflicts have lasted almost 20 years. Looking at a stack of monitors that came from the US, can you tell which models and companies for the last 20 years have used conflict materials? No one in the world can tell you. Yet you say this is all possible.

    what if someone lies?

    ahh, well, you get a world wide system of tracking going. its not impossible. its done with fruit. its done with alot of stuff.

    Tagging a shipment of fruit is vastly easier than tagging atoms. In a kg of gold (which is one of conflict minerals), there are 3.022E24 molecules of gold. How in the world do you tag that many molecules? That's the crux of the problem. You cannot know the original source of every gold atom as gold is recycled so often.

    For the sake of argument we ignore recycling. You expect Apple to personally audit thousands of suppliers? How often? Unless you audit every one of them 24x7 for the rest of their contract, you cannot be sure that they used non-conflict materials each and every time.

    I've asked you repeatedly for a technical way to do this. You've responded with nothing but unrealistic and impossible scenarios not based in reality.

Variables don't; constants aren't.