Apple joins FLA; Foxconn gets inspections. It’s a start!

As reported by The Telegraph, Apple is to become the first technology company to join the Fair Labour Association, set up in 1999 to monitor international workplace conditions.

In doing so, Apple made public its list of 156 suppliers – for the once super-secretive Apple, this is actually an extremely big deal, as it is now opening up its supply chain to international scrutiny. And the results are surprising – and troubling. Whilst underage employment is low, long hours (60+ hours a week) are more common.

Apple are promising “inspections” to get to the bottom of such things. And this is where I have to stand up and applaud the company I have often said bad things about. Apple is not a small company – or a small presence in China itself. By taking such measures, it is openly leading the way towards a more ethical, open sourcing project. Although more detail of punitive damages and punishments should suppliers fail to meet standards for Apple are somewhat more vague; some specifics would be great.

And it won’t just be Foxconn, but all of its suppliers, who will be scrutinised in the near future.

I said companies needed to take a more responsible role in the issues highlighted at the Foxconn plant – and Apple, surprisingly, are. By joining up with the FLA, and by being the first major tech company to do so, Apple are openly stating a plan for more ethical and reasoned sourcing of parts and services.

To the many hundreds of thousands of Apple customers, this is another reason for them to be proud of the devices they carry.

Now, the rest of us look towards Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony – as the big three in terms of games consoles – to make similar moves. If Apple, and its enormous global market can make time and resources available for such a move, then I can’t imagine that the likes of Microsoft or Nintendo or Sony would want to be left behind.

It’s actually a good time to be public and proud of “ethical sourcing”, to be a part of a group like the FLA. It earns brownie points with the customers, the regions selling them and the people making the parts.

Apple are the first – but, with any luck, won’t be the last.

It’s a start, at least.

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