Making Smartphones Without Condoning Poor Work Conditions
NEWS ANALYSIS: In the wake of Apple's black eye from the reports of poor working conditions at its Foxconn contract manufacturing operations in China, there is at least one company that's willing to pay close attention to how its production workers are treated.After writing an article about rising concerns over the working conditions in the factories operating in China by Foxconn, Apple's contract manufacturer for iPhones and iPads, I heard from readers about a number of points. First, there are a lot of readers who think Apple's profit margins are obscene and point to the obviously marginal conditions at its contract manufacturer as evidence that greed rules at Apple. A couple of other readers dropped me a note to let me know that not every smartphone or consumer electronics maker puts up with poor working conditions in return for higher profits. One reader claimed that LG and Samsung, both based in Korea, have much higher standards.
Readers also asked about the idea of a Fair Trade smartphone by my friend Rob Pegoraro, who writes for USA Today and Discovery Communications. You can see Rob's question in the comments section of my earlier column at the link above. But the idea intrigued me. Is it possible, I wondered, to build a smartphone in which the components are responsibly produced at factories where workers properly treated?