Take My Money

There’s a possibility that people have a slight nagging in the back of their heads that all the corporations we see and interact with each day may not be as truthful as they appear. Some corporations have teams dedicated to their public image, doing nothing but damage control when necessary to maintain their various stakeholders’ opinions. But there are sometimes slip-ups, cracks in their armor, which allow us to really see what goes on within these corporations. Listening to the podcast and hearing where it was going, I braced myself to hear some negative comments about Apple. I had heard about their factories before, about their working conditions, but never to this extent. Working in a factory can be dangerous; there will always be inherent risks that cannot be alleviated. Safety precautions can be put in place, but mistakes can still be made. Personally I’d like to think that when these accidents do occur that they are handled professionally, but listening to this I found this not to be the case.

N-hexane. I’m not a chemist so I really couldn’t tell you what this cleaner is but luckily Daisey does a good job of explaining it. It’s an iPhone screen cleaner that dries faster than alcohol, allowing Foxconn to speed up production. Just like Henry Ford pioneered the moving assembly line, there’s nothing wrong with trying to specialize work to increase productivity. In this case though, it’s incredibly irresponsible for them to do so. That’s because N-hexane is a potent neurotoxin that these factory workers have been handling. As Daisey states, the effects of this neurotoxin causes “…carpal tunnel on a scale we can scarcely imagine.” He goes on to say that its eminently avoidable if these people were rotated monthly on their jobs, but that would require Foxconn to care. While I’m sure there are other corporations using dubious practices, Apple has stated that they take the safety of their workers quite seriously. Looking through my fellow classmates’ blog posts, I can see I’m not the only one unsure of how to feel about typing this on my MacBook. Am I supposed to boycott Apple because of these practices, or is there nothing that I can really do?

I think that this podcast brings to light facts about corporations, Apple in this case but it applies to others, that we rarely think about who is producing our goods. When people queue up for the next big Apple release they probably aren’t thinking about all the hours that workers put in to allow them to wait in line for an absurd amount of time for a new gadget. Some people think the idea of social responsibility as something that corporations think of each day, and arguably some do. But the question arises regarding how we as a consumer choose to react to those corporations that let some safety standards slide in order to boost their margins. What can we really do that will make them change their ways? While we cannot be sure all the facts about what Daisey says, this podcast certainly provides food for thought for the consumer.

Here’s a link to a discussion on the redaction of this story by This American Life.


5 thoughts on “Take My Money

  1. I find it interesting that you mentioned the existence of N-hexane at Foxconn to speed up production. There was not nearly enough emphasis placed on the pressures of working under constant surveillance and the hazardous chemicals or tactics used to speed up production. With exhausting work days and a toxic workplace environment, human error is natural or expected. I agree with you in stating that Foxconn or Apple should be held accountable for the injuries in the factory and the possibility of more safety precautions must be explored. Small changes, like removing N-hexane, can make a world of difference.


  2. I think you make some excellent points in your post. I especially like the issue you raise about how we as consumers ought to react to hearing this news about Apple’s practices. I often wonder if I should be forced to feel bad about using Apple products and quit using them. But what would this really accomplish to solve the problem? Plus, how can I be certain that other companies competing with able aren’t also engaging in these harmful practices? Maybe Apple is just an easy target, for both its successes and failures. In short, I am not convinced that my refusal to use Apple products does anything to solve the root cause of this issue–that burden rests with Apple and Foxconn, as they actually have the power necessary to make these changes, not the individual consumer


  3. I think you pose a valid and interesting question at the end of your article – how do we as consumers choose to react to learning these facts about Apple? As someone who has a Macbook, iPad and iPhone, I don’t think i can take a strong stance on the issue – what is the right thing to do? Although I think that it would not be wise to simply throw out the Apple devices we already own, I think it definitely will help if everyone thinks twice before purchasing an Apple product if they continue to allow such hard working conditions such as that at Shenzhen to take place.


  4. The question of what we, I assume, as stakeholders, can do to change a company’s practices in the realm of CSR is a very hard question to address. It may be more of an internal ethical debate within the company. It’s hard, as stakeholder that’s a customer, to manage or even know about certain management practices. The corporate culture is deeply rooted, and it may take an entire change in the business paradigm for real change to take place.


  5. I think it is more important that we raise awareness on this issues because it will be our generation directing these corporations in the future and hopefully we have become smart enough to prioritize life quality over general profit. Boycotting may not be the option since Apple’s brand is too strong right now. What we can do is share and spread the information that we already have of them being unethical so everybody knows about it and the next time they misstep, which they’ll do, they will be forced by media to repair their brand image and start caring.


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