'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

Summary: Apple has taken an unprecedented step in identifying its supply chain to outside inspectors -- a move closer to becoming the first "Fair Trade" electronics company...

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Damien Van Achter imagines what a fair trade Apple laptop might look like.

Damien Van Achter imagines what a fair trade Apple laptop might look like.

Nick Wingfield and Charles Duhigg reported in today’s New York Times’ Bits blog:

Apple said Monday that it had asked an outside organization to conduct special audits of working conditions inside Chinese factories where iPhones, iPads and other Apple products are manufactured. And in a significant about-face for the company that has the potential to affect the electronics industry, Apple asked the organization to identify particular facilities where abuses are discovered.

Apple said the group, the Fair Labor Association, started its first inspections Monday at a factory in Shenzhen, China, known as Foxconn City, one of the largest plants in China, with more than 230,000 workers.


Apple Asks Outside Group to Inspect Factories - NYTimes.com

The fact that Tim Cook, CEO, agreed to reveal the identity of Apple's supply chain is a huge move for a company with such an intense culture of secrecy.

It's also a reaction to critics. Apple has become a focus for people protesting harsh working conditions in the electronics industry. It’s a good target because it has large brand identity and the criticism is hitting home.

In an email to employees earlier this year, Mr Cook addressed accusations about Apple's ambivalent indifference to working conditions at suppliers, saying:

“Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us.”

He gave his word that, “What we will not do - and never have done - is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain.”

Clearly, there is a strong emotional issue in how Apple sees itself and that is now motivating Mr Cook to show that Apple is aware of its social responsibilities -– an aspect of the company that was rarely stated under Steve Jobs.

Apple has set in motion a process that will enable it to become the first “Fair Trade electronics” company — the first electronics company able to show that its products are made according to accepted principles of fair use of labor, in conditions of safety, and fair salary. And certified by an independent organization -- not by its own audit.

There’s a powerful message here and a natural progression for Apple.

- “Think Fair” would provide an additional cache for Apple products that would easily justify their higher prices.

- “Think Fair” would sell a lot of Apple gear and it’s a considerable barrier to competitors.

Apple has high margins in the 40% plus range, so it can easily absorb a couple of points or more in higher supply chain costs. But if you are Dell, or Hewlett-Packard, or Amazon your operating margins are already in the single digits, so it’s not going to be easy to follow Apple.

I advocated for Apple to become the first “Fair Trade Electronics” company back in May, 2010. I also did a couple of radio interviews on the subject. It seemed inevitable.

My argument was simple: After all the publicity about suicides and deaths at Apple suppliers, “Think Fair” is the better kind of killer marketing.

The downside is that Apple fanbois would become even more annoying -- flaunting with even greater vigor, their Fair Trade iPhones, iPads, and MacBook Airs. Self-rightousness is a horrible accessory.






Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple, Software

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14 comments
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  • Me I'm not going to flaunt this or brag about it but I do wonder

    what the iHaters will say? Will their be gnashing of teeth followed by the inevitable "Apple still blanks" type comment? Will it sooth or further anger? I think the answer will vary of course as some will be appeased while others will show that there is just no making some people happy especially if you happen to be Apple.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

      @James Quinn you mean like the snarky comment from the blogs author? To say Apple is the only company with Fanbois is an example of an iHater.
      Joel-r
      • Often when one gets an "Atta boy" pat on the back

        @Joel-r ... you have to expect a kick to the blank to quickly follow:) It's just the way of people. After all if his article was completely good news about Apple he'd likely be called BIASED... Can't have that so this may have been a CYA move on his part? <br><br>Pagan jim
        James Quinn
  • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

    It is a good start, now they just have to act on any information that is found from these investigations.
    slickjim
  • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

    (Cr) Apple and their Fanbois are all stupid. I have a dream, where the communist companies all go out of business.
    Stephen-B
  • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

    (Cr) Apple and their Fanbois are all stupid. I have a dream, where the communist companies all go out of business.
    Stephen-B
  • When I saw the title...

    ...I thought that Apple had applied for a patent on Thinking. Imagine my relief.
    itpro_z
    • It would seem Apple does not need to protect

      @itpro_z ... "thinking" cause nobody else gets it:)

      Pagan Jim
      James Quinn
  • Kudos to Apple

    I hope this benefits the workers who make the computers.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

      @Michael Alan Goff it will only benefit some of them. The ones making the begin bin Windows PCs, will not likely get a higher wage, as the profit margins are already too small. Companies like Dell, HP, Toshiba cannot suddenly add $200 per unit, or they will lose sales. Then their Fanbois cannot use the Walmart card, like it is a badge of honor.
      Joel-r
      • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

        @Joel-r

        Let's hope it shames Toshiba/Dell/etc into it.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

        @Michael Alan Goff I highly doubt that will happen, as people want their $399 computers. If those computers suddenly cost $999,people would not buy them.
        Joel-r
      • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

        @Joel-r

        That wouldn't be so bad.

        A majority of the people who buy cheap computers are the ones who call me to say that the internet isn't working if I switch from IE to something else. >>;
        Michael Alan Goff
  • RE: 'Think Fair' - Has Apple opened a new front in competitive battles?

    Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. Not in the eyes of the government bureacrats who want to do all your thinking for you.
    clifftrapp