Apple has always been very secretive and did not make comments on manufacturer issues, or rumors of deaths at Foxconn in China. That changed as Steve Jobs passed away and new CEO, Tim Cook took the reins, publishing information on their suppliers, auditing and the code of conduct Apple asks that they abide to.
Today, Tim Cook spoke publicly about the issues that have been raised in China. At the start of his speech, he addressed the issues immediately, saying “[Apple] take the conditions of workers very seriously. I worked in factories, I worked at a paper mill. We understand working conditions at a very granular level."
He went on to say that "[Apple] realize that the supply chain is very complex, and the issues surrounding it are very complex. But we believe that every worker has the right to a safe working environment where workers can earn a fair wage, and Apple suppliers must live up to this in order to do business with Apple."
Impressively, Cook points out that the company manages this to a low level, and pays attention to details such as having safe fire extinguishers in the factories that they employ.
He continued on "We think that the use of underage labor is abhorrent. Our top priority is to eliminate it entirely," and that "No one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple. [...] If we find a supplier that intentionally supplies child labor, it is a fireable offense."
On the topic of workers being forced to work far more hours than they should, Cook said "[Apple is] continuing to focusing on the problems endemic to our industry like excessive overtime. Our code of conduct has a cap of 60 hours per work week, but we've consistently found violations to this code over the course of our time."
He continued on to say "we're determined to drive widespread change and we've begun to manage working hours at a very micro basis. An example, in January, we collected weekly data on over a half million workers in our supply chain, and we had 84 percent compliant. This is significantly improved from the past, but we can do better. And we're taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website so that it's transparent to everyone what we're doing."
According to Cook, Apple plans to publish information on it's supplier responsibility page about worker hours, overtime and working conditions on a monthly basis.
Cook finished by saying "We know that people have a very high expectation of Apple. We have an even higher expectation of ourselves. Our customers expect us to lead and we will continue to do so. We have the smartest and most innovative people on earth, and we put the same kind of effort and energy into supply responsibility as we do with our new product. That is what Apple is all about."
It's great to see a company of this scale taking such responsibility for those affected by their actions, and actually doing something about it as well as informing consumers. It will be interesting to see if other OEM's following suit.
The full transcript of Tim Cook's appearance is available on the next page (via The Verge), and its worth a read if you thought Apple was being evil or unfair to their suppliers and workers.