When thinking about what item I could possibly write about for this week’s prompt, it took me a grand total of about 5 seconds before I decided on my iPhone.  If anyone has hung around me for more than a couple minutes, they probably know I have a little thing for products made by the Cupertino, CA based company.  My mom thinks i’m addicted, and I have to say, she is probably right.  She claims that the phone has actually become an extension of my hand.  She didn’t really understand it.  That was until she finally traded in her Blackberry for one herself.  I think the reason that I am so hooked is because I use it to do basically everything.  It is my music player, my social network hub, my “gameboy”, my internet hub, etc.  I can even see when my laundry is done.  Just to further prove my point, I am currently writing this post on my iPhone.  I have to say, I don’t think i’m the only one who uses an iPhone like this.  In fact, this month the iPhone eclipsed Apple’s mac computers in internet traffic for the first time ever.

In Recent years, Apple has become wildly successful.  A look at last quarter’s financial results would make you think that money actually does grow on trees.  However, it is not all good news for the iPhone maker.  Apple has recently taken a lot of heat for the practices of their manufacturing partner, Foxconn.  Many activists are claiming that the factory employees working conditions, living conditions, and wages are all sub-par.  This situation reminds me of the one the Nike faced in the early 90’s.  Apple even employs the same auditing firm, Ernst & Young, as the shoe maker.  However, the similarities between the two companies end there.  Apple has been very proactive in addressing these issues as of late, and has worked with Foxconn to improve the conditions of workers.  Apple’s actions speak louder than there words though.  Foxconn has agreed to raise starting salaries by as much as 25% and ABC just announced that they were granted full access to the chinese plants for February 21st’s episode of Dateline.  

Now, Apple doesn’t claim to have a social goal in its mission statement.  The company is clearly focused on great products and great user experiences.  In the companies own words:

“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”

 

Now to play devil’s advocate, you could argue that Apple really isn’t doing such a great thing because they are only responding to outside pressure.  You could say that the company probably wouldn’t have done anything if they didn’t face the prospect of losing the goodwill they have spent a long time building up.  To respond to that, the only thing I can really say is that you’re right.  Maybe they wouldn’t have done anything.  At the same time, the fact of the matter is that they did do something.  I think one sign of a well managed company is that they face problems head on.  They don’t let them get too big to handle.  This is what Apple is currently doing, and they are doing it well.  Whether or not the company is acting morally depends on to which theory you subscribe, but in the end, impoverished Foxconn employees are getting better working conditions and higher wages.  To me, this is what really matters in the end.

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5 responses »

  1. Paul Martin says:

    I found Zach’s last sentence to be quite appropriate because it is reminiscent of some of the ethical theories we have discussed in class. Although this is not quite an “ends justify the means” circumstance, it did remind me of the consequentialist perspective. I think Zach hit on an excellent point about outside pressure. While ideally a company should take it upon themselves to pursue green strategies and adequate worker environments, I suppose (as Zach seems to agree) that it is not the end of the world if a company accomplishes these things as the result of outside pressure. I fully agree with Zach’s comment that Apple might have been acting out of a need to maintain their clean-cut company image. Additionally, I’m guessing the quote that Zach posted in not the actual mission statement of Apple, but what I was struck by was how well aligned Apple is with that statement. However, I’m guessing that the statement was written after Apple had already positioned itself as a leader in those markets.

  2. Much like Zach, I have yet to say anything bad about the iphone and its user interface. Although I can’t say I am an apple worshiper, because I have yet to make the pc to mac conversion. (Which might actually never happen) What really stood out to me was the fact that Apple decided to attack the problem before it became to big. I agree with Paul and Zach that no matter what the reasoning behind Apple’s actions was, the most important thing is that the end result was a positive change, which improved other people’s lives. Going back to my original point on the effectiveness of acting quick has many implications. By coming up with a quick solution to the problem, companies are able to demonstrate/showcase that the issues are just as important to them and not just to the individuals affected. Also by acting quickly, it prevents the company from trying to cut corners in the near future as a means of fixing the problem, which could result in shady business and poor managerial practices. Even if the consequences of immediate decision making are not as great as intended, the fact of the matter is that the company did try to fix the problem. Now, the question of how hard they tried to fix the problem, is up for another debate.

  3. marko987 says:

    I’m also biggest fan of Iphones. I actually pre-ordered mine even before they start selling in August 2007. Ever since, I had only one phone – iPhone. Actually this is my sixth one because they have very fragile touch-screens, but thats a separate issue. Anyways, Im loving the company. Recently Apple broke $500 per stock, overpassing Exxon, and becoming most valuable company in the world. Apsolutely amazing. All that on side, I’m familiar with Foxxcon issue that Zach was talking about. They recognized they had a problem that need to be dealt with and they increased the salaries to 25% (which is significant increase considering current economic situation).

  4. Claire McCardell says:

    Zach, you raised an interesting point in the end of your post. Just because apple doesn’t integrate social responsibility as apart of its core operations doesn’t necessarily make it a bad company. The corporation has excelled at what it was create to do: create and innovate the personal computing industry to produce the best products. It is extremely successful and an industry leader, and has a “cult-like” following of consumers. Additionally, when it was brought to the company’s attention that Foxconn’s employees had sub-par wages and working conditions, apple immediately corrected the situation and remained transparent throughout the process. But is apple deserving of a “socially responsible” title? This reminds me of the article we had to read last week, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” by Milton Friedman, which argues that corporations exist to maximize profits and have no commitment to anything beyond that realm. So according to Friedman, apple is acting as a corporation should and has been very successful at its core responsibility of increasing profits.

  5. […] Title is shared between Marc’s “Could I Have a Beef Burrito with a Side of Integrity?” and Zach’s […]

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