Apple values its customers, so why not its workshops?



The shiny, marvellous iPads and iPhones we snap up so happily in gleaming shopping malls have arrived at the end of a supply chain that begins in very different conditions.

Consumer prices are reasonable and profits are high because of efficient manufacturing in China and other Asia Pacific countries. Unfortunately, "efficient manufacturing" seems to involve low wages, excessively long hours and unsafe working conditions in Asian workshops.

These labour problems are difficult to remedy because the corporate response - of auditing factories for compliance with labour laws and voluntary codes of conduct - does not address the root of the problem.

Companies such as Apple (I will focus on Apple but this phenomenon is not unique to one company or industry) exercise tremendous bargaining power over manufacturers. They can create competition among suppliers, and can thereby dictate production schedules - which often require excessive overtime - and so on.

Apple would react instantly to a decline in product quality. Why is it so difficult for the company to use its bargaining leverage to insist that local manufacturers improve wages and working conditions? The answer lies in cost control.

When it comes to customers, Apple applies the notion of value. That is, it sets prices on the basis of customers' perceived satisfaction. But when it comes to suppliers' labour, Apple uses its dominant market position to pay the lowest possible price and has little incentive to push suppliers to adhere to the company's self-professed labour standards.

Apple's business model is no different than those of its competitors. Stories about low wages and bad conditions for workers, many female and some as young as 15, have been well-known in various industries for over 15 years.

Manufacturers and multinationals have joined in a ritual recurring dance of complaints, audits, promises to reform and superficial follow-up - until media attention subsides. Real changes have come only when certain Chinese cities and provinces raised minimum wages and imposed higher safety standards. Low-wage industries have responded by moving to the country's interior and refusing factory access to pro-worker groups.

Apple's principal supplier is Foxconn, a Fortune 500 company and the single largest exporter of products from China. Foxconn, owned by Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, also produces for Dell, HP, Sony, Intel, and Microsoft.

The company puts great emphasis on secrecy and security. This suits companies anxious to protect intellectual property, but also protects bad labour practices.

Britain's Mail on Sunday gave the West its first look at Foxconn in June 2006. Other media followed; now we know of employee suicides, factory explosions and reports of bribery, falsified records, underage workers, harmful chemicals and more. This follows the pattern set previously in other industries.

How then can firms like Apple be influenced to take stronger action?

Big companies normally face five sources of pressure: customers, competitors, shareholders, civil society organisations and regulatory oversight. But these have little traction with Apple. The company enjoys enviable customer loyalty, and does not fear competitors because they follow similar practices.

Institutional investors, notably public-employee pension funds, used to be aggressive in pushing companies towards improving labour standards in low-wage countries but they, and NGOs, have been reluctant to push Apple. At the company's recent annual meeting, for example, investors won changes in board election procedures but did not mention China labour issues.

Nor does Apple have to worry about regulators; China's labour laws are seldom enforced.

Still, there is hope. Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs had his virtues but had only a distant understanding of Chinese conditions. However the new CEO, Tim Cook, was the architect of Apple's supply chain and claims a "ground-level" grasp of Chinese factory conditions. We can hope that he will remake Apple's corporate culture to attack the root causes of labour problems in China.

This would require Apple to lead, which would solidify its reputation not only as a leading corporate innovator but also in corporate social responsibility. Apple could once again astonish the world.

S Prakash Sethi is University Distinguished Professor at Baruch College of the City University of New York

Dubai works towards better air quality by 2021

Dubai is on a mission to record good air quality for 90 per cent of the year – up from 86 per cent annually today – by 2021.

The municipality plans to have seven mobile air-monitoring stations by 2020 to capture more accurate data in hourly and daily trends of pollution.

These will be on the Palm Jumeirah, Al Qusais, Muhaisnah, Rashidiyah, Al Wasl, Al Quoz and Dubai Investment Park.

“It will allow real-time responding for emergency cases,” said Khaldoon Al Daraji, first environment safety officer at the municipality.

“We’re in a good position except for the cases that are out of our hands, such as sandstorms.

“Sandstorms are our main concern because the UAE is just a receiver.

“The hotspots are Iran, Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq, but we’re working hard with the region to reduce the cycle of sandstorm generation.”

Mr Al Daraji said monitoring as it stood covered 47 per cent of Dubai.

There are 12 fixed stations in the emirate, but Dubai also receives information from monitors belonging to other entities.

“There are 25 stations in total,” Mr Al Daraji said.

“We added new technology and equipment used for the first time for the detection of heavy metals.

“A hundred parameters can be detected but we want to expand it to make sure that the data captured can allow a baseline study in some areas to ensure they are well positioned.”

Shooting Ghosts: A U.S. Marine, a Combat Photographer, and Their Journey Back from War by Thomas J. Brennan and Finbarr O’Reilly

The National selections

6pm: Go Soldier Go
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8.20pm: Falling Shadow
8.55pm: Law Of Peace
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Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

UAE squad to face Ireland

Ahmed Raza (captain), Chirag Suri (vice-captain), Rohan Mustafa, Mohammed Usman, Mohammed Boota, Zahoor Khan, Junaid Siddique, Waheed Ahmad, Zawar Farid, CP Rizwaan, Aryan Lakra, Karthik Meiyappan, Alishan Sharafu, Basil Hameed, Kashif Daud, Adithya Shetty, Vriitya Aravind

SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September

Honeymoonish

Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

Specs

Engine: 1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder / 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder (S3)
Power: 148bhp / 328bhp (S3)
Torque: 250Nm / 420Nm (S3)
On sale: December
Price: TBA

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

COMPANY PROFILE

Founder: Hani Abu Ghazaleh
Based: Abu Dhabi, with an office in Montreal
Founded: 2018
Sector: Virtual Reality
Investment raised: $1.2 million, and nearing close of $5 million new funding round
Number of employees: 12

TOURNAMENT INFO

Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Jul 3- 14, in the Netherlands
The top two teams will qualify to play at the World T20 in the West Indies in November

UAE squad
Humaira Tasneem (captain), Chamani Seneviratne, Subha Srinivasan, Neha Sharma, Kavisha Kumari, Judit Cleetus, Chaya Mughal, Roopa Nagraj, Heena Hotchandani, Namita D’Souza, Ishani Senevirathne, Esha Oza, Nisha Ali, Udeni Kuruppuarachchi

Playing records of the top 10 in 2017

How many games the top 10 have undertaken in the 2017 ATP season

1. Rafael Nadal 58 (49-9)

2. Andy Murray 35 (25-10)

3. Roger Federer 38 (35-3)

4. Stan Wawrinka 37 (26-11)

5. Novak Djokovic 40 (32-8)

6. Alexander Zverev 60 (46-14)

7. Marin Cilic 43 (29-14)

8. Dominic Thiem 60 (41-19)

9. Grigor Dimitrov 48 (34-14)

10. Kei Nishikori 43 (30-13)

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo

Power: 240hp at 5,500rpm

Torque: 390Nm at 3,000rpm

Transmission: eight-speed auto

Price: from Dh122,745

On sale: now


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