Microsoft one of the few to talk about suppliers and worker conditions

For the past few months, the spotlight has been placed firmly on Apple as it deals with accusations that the many factories that make its products have poor working conditions. A couple of weeks ago, the Fair Labor Association reported that there were a large number of violations related to worker safety and pay at three of Foxconn's plants in China that make products such as Apple's iPhone and iPad.

Both Apple and Foxconn have pledged to improve both the pay and the conditions for workers at those plants. However, a great many other companies also use Chinese-based plants to make their products. As The New York Times points out, few of them release any information about the suppliers for their products nor any information about the conditions at the supplier's plants.

One exception to this is Microsoft, which does indeed release an annual summary of how it works with its various third party vendors. However, the company doesn't list any of its suppliers and only offers brief notes on how it requires its vendors to provide "fair wages and health benefits", among other requirements.

The 2011 report did say that an audit of Microsoft's 80 suppliers' found "...six non-conformances to our non-discrimination policies." The statement added that a "corrective action plan was reviewed and approved in all six cases."

At least Microsoft has made an effort to be transparent in this area. Many other companies have done little to publicly provide their own policies concerning worker rights at the factories they deal with. Samsung and Barnes & Noble (makers of the Nook tablet) offered no such information at all when asked by the New York Times.

HP does offer a rather detailed supplier audit report on its website but there's a problem; it was last updated in 2010. has a public supplier code of standards but offers no information on any audits of its factories. Dell doesn't offer any such code on its website but a spokesperson said it is working with Foxconn to help improve the pay for the workers that make Dell's products.

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