Apple has yet again been held accountable for the mistreating of Chinese workers at the Foxconn factories where many Apple products are manufactured.
The accusations came just after Cook spoke about supplier responsibility the D10 conference. When Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke to Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg he claimed that, when it comes to social change, supplier responsibility and the environment, Apple is “going to be the most transparent company on the world”.
“We think that transparency is important in these areas, and if we are, other people will copy us,” said Cook.
“In the past, we did an annual report and that was our method of transparency. Did we do more than others? I think most people would say yes. Our actions were clearly much more. But our communication was once per year. Now we’re putting out monthly reports. We want everyone to know what we’re doing, and we hope people copy us,” he added.
Speaking about Apple’s use of labour in China, Cook said: “We went through a lot of effort in taking overtime down. It’s hard, it’s complex. Some people want to work a lot. Some people want to work a whole lot because they want to move and work for a year or two and bring back as much money as they can to their village.”
He added: “We took a position to say we want to bring this down. We’re measuring working hours for 700,000 people. I don’t know who else is doing this. And we’re reporting it. It’s almost like the labour report that the US puts out.”
In addition to receiving criticism for the treatment of workers at the Foxconn factories, Apple has also been criticised for manufacturing in China rather than the US.
Defending this situation, Cook said: “We decided over a decade ago that there were things we could do better than anyone else, and those things we could do ourselves. And other things, other people could do those better than we can… manufacturing was one of those. The operational expertise and engineering and supply chain management, Apple does all of that. But manufacturing, we said, you know, other people can do that as well as we can.”
Cook also noted that, in fact, many parts of the iPhone and iPad are built in the US. He said: “This isn’t well known, but the engine for the iPhone and the iPad are built in the US, not just for the US but the world. The glass for your iPhone is made in a plant in Kentucky, not just for the US but other markets outside the US so I think there are things that can be done in the US, not just for the US, but exported for the world.”
He added: “People focus on the final assembly, because that’s the part where people look at it and say that’s an iPhone, they don’t think of all the parts underneath that add significant value. So on assembly, could it be done in the US? I hope so some day. The tool and die maker skill in the US began to go down in the ’60s and ’70s. How many tool and die makers do you know now? We couldn’t fill a room. In China you’d need several cities.”
Cook criticised the US education system for not producing enough people with the necessary skills for manufacturing. He said: “So there has to be a fundamental change in the education system, to bring back some of this. But there are things that we can do. The semiconductor industry is fantastic in the US. The Corning deal with glass in Kentucky, this is fantastic. So we will do as many of these as we can do.”
“And we will use the whole of our influence that we can do it,” he added.
Cook went on to argue that Apple has helped create US jobs in the area of app development. “If you look at developers, you know, if you think back at D1 all the way to 5 or 6, how many people knew what a mobile app was. There were a few, but it wasn’t coming out of people’s mouths. Now it’s in the mainstream. And in the US there are hundreds of thousands of people developing apps. This whole segment of the economy didn’t exist just a few years ago,” he said.
“From an app point of view, if you looked at innovation on the PC, you’d be hard pressed to find companies innovating. The list is small. But if you said, let’s have a meeting of mobile app developers from the US, you’d need several football stadiums,” he said.