My quest for a conflict free laptop: Apple

So one would think Apple  would have an ethical purchasing policy that doesn’t contribute to war, death and destruction, right? I certainly thought so. Especially since I read about the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct and their talk of corporate social responsibility on their website.  To on the one hand cause or contribute to war or human rights abuses, and on the other project an image of humanitarianism and social responsibility would seem quite contradictory, wouldn’t it?

Reading further into their actual code– it states that its purpose is to ensure that working conditions are safe whereever Apple products are made. It doesn’t mention anything about where their raw materials are purchased, and what they support.  It says that they expanded their compliance program to the “next layer” by auditing 34 companies that provide components for them. Again, only addressing some of the plants where components are manufactured and not the places supplying the components with raw materials. Also, what about their supplier’s supplier? Besides which, 34 is only a small portion of the supply companies involved in the process. It’s a start, but clearly not enough to give me peace about their products.

My first contact with Apple was incredibly frustrating. When I asked about whether they had an ethical purchasing or supply policy (even though it IS clearly on their website), I was met with, “what do you mean?” by their sales representatives.  The first sales lady went on to tell me that they build their own keyboards and other products and she doesn’t THINK they use slave labour. After explaining to her what I meant, and why I was actually calling, and telling her about how some of the raw materials support major human rights abuses,  I asked if I could be referred to someone who KNOWS whether this is happening or not for sure, and could explain to me the process they take to ensure it doesn’t there at Apple.

She was horrified and told me how terrible that it was that some products contribute to war and people don’t know. I definitely agreed.

So I was referred to their corporate location. After talking to three different people at this location on the phone, I had gotten no further. No one knew who exactly I should speak to about this, or what I was even really talking about. I was told to send a letter to corporate headquarters, which I then promptly did.

I also sent several emails and suggestions using their website’s feedback mechanism. I sent soo many because it has soo many different sections, and I didn’t know where my question fit in their contact structure.  No definitive word yet on whether Apple is among the guilty or not.

How is the question “does your company have an ethical purchasing policy”  soo difficult to answer? Either the company does, or does not have an ethical purchasing policy. If it does, “what does this ethical policy entail?” should not be that difficult a question to answer– you should be able to explain the steps you take to ensure ethical purchasing without too much difficulty. Come on corporations-get a clue!

How hard is it to get a straight answer?

Do any of your products use raw materials from a war zone? Do they contribute to human rights abuses? Do you use slave labour, child labour, or have unfair working conditions? These are yes or no questions that should be answered.  If no, I will make my purchasing accordingly. Why is it all these companies seem like they have never been asked this before? Why do they not seem to really care? Profits are clearly more important than people, otherwise they would take steps to ensure that they weren’t contributing to this chaos. They would be proud to report the full details that they are not contributing to war, human rights abuses and destruction. They could advertise true coporate social responsibility.

Personally, I no longer believe the claims of corporate responsibility and I don’t know how the companies could ever regain my trust except through thorough structures to stop the atrocities, and full transparency to prove they have actually stopped.

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