Case Assignment: Apple, Inc. International Business Dilemma
November 23, 2016
Dr. Kathleen Hargiss
Case Assignment: Apple, Inc. International Business Dilemma
In this Week 4 Case Assignment, I will review the ethical dilemmas that were unearthed
during the foreign production of products for Apple, Inc. Additionally, I will address the role of
senior management at Apple Inc. as well as their social responsibility policy changes following
this supply chain controversy and what they did in order to ensure their manufacturer lived up to
their agreements within that policy. Finally, I will review what Apple Inc. did in order to try to
regain an ethical standard in their supply chain within China and what they could have done to
further those attempts for the safety and standards of the employees who help them achieve such
financial success in the U.S.
International Business Issues
When deciding to expand a business internationally, several factors need to be considered
before those plans are executed. Ethical dilemmas such as labor conditions, pay scales, and
cultural differences play a key role in the “down side” of international expansions.
Using China as a point of reference for the remainder of this paper, I examined the
average pay and hours from the manufacturing aspect of Chinese manufacturer Foxconn. On
average, the manufacturing workers in this plant are paid an average of $1.12 (U.S. equivalent)
per hour to work on the lines. In addition to this low wage, they are worked an average of 60
hours a week (often without proper overtime pay) and are often in violation of local labor laws
by employing children under 16 years of age (Working Conditions in Foxconn Factories in
China, N.D.). Because of the excessive working hours and the commute time for many workers,
they are able to pay for a cot to sleep on and a meal which is considered a benefit by the
company standards. However, the allowance rate of 210 CNY which is provided by the
company, is less than what is needed to eat daily from the canteen provided (Students & Scholars
Against Corporate Misbehaviour, 2010).
In addition to the obvious problems with labor relations when dealing with international
supply chains, companies are also found to use chemicals which are considered hazardous to
employees and often refuse to change this problem, much to the detriment of their workers
(Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, 2010).
While many in the United States may see this as a negative issue to production, compared
to average Chinese factory workers pay, Foxconn pays an average of 20% higher wages to its
employees and is one of the largest manufacturers of electronics in China (Students & Scholars
Against Corporate Misbehaviour, 2010). This view of the ethical dilemma of international
business expansion based on societal “norms” is a major issue within the decision to expand into
markets such as that of China.
Apple’s Supply Chain Controversy
Understanding that business abroad comes with its own challenges, Apple has always
provided visibility of its suppliers and the expected business practices of same through its
Supplier Responsibility Reports.
This report, often called a “Social Responsibility Report” by other companies, outlines
the expectations of vendors who produce products for Apple, Inc. in terms of labor laws,
workplace safety, environmental and health standards. These standards are part of their supplier
agreements which are contractually obligated, legally enforced and compliatory audits are
executed to ensure the compliance of these standards (Apple 2011 Supplier Responsibility,
Coming under fire in 2010 for conditions at one of its IPad manufacturing facilities in
China, Apple attempted to immediately address the unfair labor practices, safety hazards and pay
issues through emergency audits. Foxconn, one of the Chinese manufacturing arms of Apple’s
IPad devices, ignored its sanctions with Apple and violated several contractual obligations
relating to labor conditions. Several news outlets reported video conditions at these facilities and
shed a very disturbing light on the average wages, working conditions, labor violations and other
hazards present at the plant (CBS News, 2012).
Several attempts by Apple’s management team to correct these issues included a
multitude of audits and corrective action planning consisting of educational initiatives, age
verification controls, employee rights initiatives, and the identification of hazardous materials
used in the production of its devices over the course of three years (Apple 2011 Supplier
After attempting, without success, to force Foxconn into complying with its contractual
obligations relating to safety and pay of its employees according to the supplier contract that was
in place, Apple’s executive team made the decision to shift manufacturing away from Foxconn
in 2013 (Dou, 2013).
Apple’s Ethical Response to Sweatshop Labor Practices
Because Apple strives to maintain its ethical standards regardless of where it does
business or establishes a supply chain, it has inreaed its audits from 39 in 2007 to an astounding
640 audits in 2015 in the hopes to resolve sweatshop labor issues and maintain safety for its
workers (Accountability, n.d.). Through these audits, they have been able to identify core issues
with their international supply chain, provide corrective actions the facilities must take in order
to remain a subcontractor of Apple and when they found their supply chain to be unresponsive to
the contractual obligations, Apple decided that ethically a change in suppliers was needed (Dou,
Throughout their attempts to rectify supply chain ethical dilemmas, Apple came under
heavy fire from people who felt they did not do enough fast enough to ensure the safety and well
being of their supply chain employees (Reed, 2014). This criticism followed the report that 14
people had committed suicide at the Foxconn plant and that Foxconn management erected
suicide nets along its building exterior to prevent further suicides, rather than address the larger
issue of employee safety and working conditions (Reed, 2014).
Realizing that corrective actions take time, Apple was ethical in its attempts to save those
workers from “sweatshop” conditions by taking corrective actions and steps to resolve these
issues even though they were unsuccessful throughout the years by ultimately shifting their
supplier away from Foxconn in the end.
Repairing The Damage
Througout this paper I outlined how Apple conducted audits in order to identify and
correct unethical practices by its supplier Foxconn. In addition to the outlined corrective actions,
I believe that Apple took aggressive measures to ensure the health and safety of the employees
under their supplier’s care.
These corrective actions were done through requiring non compliant suppliers to submit a
corrective action plan within two weeks of infraction, which will come with check ups a the 30,
60 and 90 day intervals until the solution is permanently resolved. Further, Apple partnered with
the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in an attempt to educate workers on their
rights before they leave home to accept a position with a company (Labor & Human Rights,
N.D.). One of the final steps they took to ensure workers can thrive and not just barely survive
was to create an educational program to allow for the employees growth and advancement which
has helped 1.4M people in these factories to date (Empowering Workers, N.D.).
While many felt that this was “too little, too late”, the international business model they
have established with their supply chain provivded for immediate response with corrective
action, opportunities for additional chances to resolve the supplier issues and when found
unwilling to maintain the ethical standards which Apple puts forth, the business was pulled from
those suppliers in favor of more internationally ethical suppliers for the health and well being of
the workers. I do not believe they could have done anything more to resolve these issues in a
more timely manner as their actions prove that they want to ensure ethical behavior in the host
country regardless of local customs which may be contrary to empoyee health and safety.
When conducting international business, maintaining ones own ethical standards can
become a great challenge, particularly when dealing in a host country who have ethical standards
which are substandard to your cultural norms.
Apple, Inc. maintains its ethical standards regardless of host country substandard
practices and strives for its high ethical standards to be maintained by its suppliers. They have
continually proved that when a situation arises, they will take every step necessary to resolve
these issues to ensure the safety of the employees producing its products and when that cannot be
accomplished through audits, checks, rechecks and corrective action plans, the business is pulled
from substandard suppliers in favor of more ethically based ones. Their unwavering desire to
improve the lives of their supply chain employees and create a more liveable environment for
same just reaffirms the strength in Apple’s ethical standards and its unwillingness to allow the
sweatshop labor to continue while producing its products.
More companies producing products in places like China should take note of these
standards and adhere to the core standards of the Supplier Code of Conduct that Apple put forth.
Imagine your own children or family members working in these conditions and consider what
you would do in order to correct these actions so that they could escape this situation and find
stability and encouragement in their work. We demand a liveable wage here in the U.S. that is
far in excess of what is made in China and have shifted a bulk of our production out of the
country and into these sweatshop facilities to keep our prices low.
When we stand up and say we will no longer accept these sweatshop products and deal
more in the Fair Trade environment, we guarantee that our products maintain our strict ethical
standards of health, treatment and safety of employees we engage. We as a culture need to stop
seeking the cheapest price and consider at what cost does our “deal” come to others.
Accountability. (n.d.). Retrieved from Apple.com: http://www.apple.com/supplier-
Apple 2011 Supplier Responsibility. (2011). Retrieved from Apple.Com:
CBS News. (2012, March 16). The Dark Side of Shiny Apple Products. Retrieved from CBS
Dou, E. (2013, 05 29). Apple Shifts Supply Chain Away From Foxconn to Pegatron. Retrieved
from Wall Street Journal:
Empowering Workers. (N.D.). Retrieved from Apple.com: http://www.apple.com/supplier-
Labor & Human Rights. (N.D.). Retrieved from Apple.com: http://www.apple.com/supplier-
Reed, B. (2014, 12 09). Apple China Factory Conditions was Totally Tone Deaf. Retrieved from
Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour. (2010, 10 20). Workers as Machines:
Military Management in Foxconn. Retrieved from Germanwatch.org:
Working Conditions in Foxconn Factories in China. (N.D.). Retrieved from Facing-Finance.org: