Transparent Apples

Apple Inc. has been in the news recently as, among other efforts to pressure the company on ensuring a “clean” supply chain, an internet petition for the company to ensure protection for its Chinese suppliers’ employees has been circulating. This is a great idea and one which I hope will be implemented (actually, Apple already seems to be doing quite a fair amount) but a lot of people seem to be missing some amazing and positive aspects of this story:

  1. Westerners (mostly American) are protesting working conditions in China, which, just a few years ago, was almost as opaque as North Korea. Now we are getting news on what’s going on and workers in China are even able to protest their own working conditions. With China’s drive towards economic power, and the West’s insatiable desire for cool gadgets, a nice side-effect seems to be improved working conditions in China.
  2. Because of the increasing interdependence of the global economy, consumers now have an interesting new source of political leverage. Although lots of people lament the flight of American manufacturing jobs overseas, this paradoxically seems to have given us more ability to influence a country’s treatment of its own citizens, even helping to stop child labor.
  3. We can actually trace the supply chain. This isn’t an easy thing to do. Supply chains, sometimes because of corrupt practices, but also due to incredibly complicated logistics (multiple vendors, countries, regions, transportation issues, thousands of humans involved, tracking mistakes) are not easy to track back. It’s a lot of work but with new technologies in supply chain management (and with the help I’m sure of some of those iProducts) this is now becoming possible.
  4. Apple’s step in releasing supply chain information is nothing short of world-shifting. If other companies follow this path, a level of transparency will exist in the global economy that is breathtaking to contemplate.

And it’s not just the technology industry that is being affected. (Although it does make some sense that, given that the technology industry is by definition on the cutting edge of technology, they would also be the first to implement new processes.) Blood diamonds, timber tracking, fair trade practices, all of these point to a global drive towards transparency which I am watching with a mixture of both awe at the speed this is taking place, and increasing hope that this heralds a better future for not just factory workers but for all of us across the planet.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC


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