Don't believe the hype!
It was the big fuss in the Corporate Social Responsibility field last year. Your flashy iPad had the blood of Chinese workers on it. The factory where they were made was a suicide hotspot because of the terrible working conditions and you should feel guilty, Apple should feel guilty, the whole world should hang its collective head in remorse. I know people who chose not to buy Apple as a result.
At the time, I felt that Apple were hard done by as the company concerned, Foxconn, produced goods for many other household names, including Sony, Dell and Motorola. Now it appears, according to Wired magazine, the whole scandal was a non-event. Yes, sadly, 17 workers took their own lives, but out of a workforce of 1 million. That puts the Foxconn suicide rate lower than the average for all of China, and four times less than that of US college students. Working conditions at Foxconn still seem severe by Western standards, but if you work there, you’re at a lower risk of killing yourself than your peers. Apple does appear to have been the victim of journos hungry for a negative story about the iPad.
Here’s some things we can learn from the story:
- The old political/journalism trope “never let the facts get in the way of a good story” still applies;
- Bad news travels much, much quicker than good news (and nobody’s interested in debunking a ‘good story’);
- Never believe the scandals that rip across Twitter, blogs or the media – check the facts;
- Tall poppies like Apple are always at risk of negative stories, fair or foul.
- Damage limitation is just that.
The only way to balance this kind of lazy journalism/bloggareah is to strive for the highest standards, have the facts ready to defend the brand and have a steady stream of positive CSR news hitting the ether. In the meantime, I can use my Apple gear with renewed smugness.