Apple’s Transparency

on January 25, 2013
Reading Time: 2 minutes

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I don’t hear the topic of transparency brought up nearly enough. I asked the question in my column today of what company is more healthy than Apple and now I ask what company is more transparent than Apple? The cost of being transparent is that inevitably you will expose some dirt. Most companies want to sweep dirt under the rug. But as I read the latest supplier responsibility progress report from Apple, it hit me that Apple is not just interested in exposing the dirt but actively trying to clean it up.

Now I know many tech companies do this but I have to emphasize that it is a very difficult problem and its not one that a company who is in a commodity race to the bottom would have the time or money to truly invest in. However, this most recent report from Apple released today included something that I thought was extremely interesting.

Take a look at the following core violations Apple found and the action taken.

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The part that stuck out to me was that Apple terminated business with the supplier. This is more than just a small detail. Apple chooses suppliers for very specific reasons largely unique to a product or process. Often times heavily customized processes are in place at these suppliers for Apple’s products thus making a relationship with that supplier more like an investment. For Apple to terminate business with a core supplier could have significant supply chain ramifications. Replacing that supplier is also not an overnight process but takes time and more equity to get a new supplier up to speed.

This is interesting to me because if all Apple was interested in was a pure profit motive, they would not have taken an action like this.

Here was another one I found interesting on the topic of bonded labor or human trafficking.

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Apple actively investigated and worked to resolve accounts of forced (slave) labor in factories that make their products. Again what does this say about Apple and their philosophy as a company? Are these moves a profit at all costs kind of action?

These kinds of things impact change of a positive nature. I know from many sources I speak with in the supply chain that getting a deal with Apple can literally change the fortunes of many overnight. Actions like this will hopefully help those companies bidding for Apple’s business in future product follow ethical principles in their business practices if they want a chance at Apple’s lucrative business.

Fascinating stuff and very encouraging. Obviously global supply chains are hard to manage and often filled with dark secrets most care to keep in the closet. We can only hope that continued work like this and greater corporate transparency becomes common practice throughout the industry.