Taking a Bite Out of Apple: Labor Rights and the Role of Companies and Consumers in a Global Supply Chain

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: February 10, 2014
Length: 16 pages
Product ID#: 1-429-372

Core Disciplines: Ethics, International Business, Operations Management/Supply Chain, Strategy & Management

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Teaching Note

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An NPR report, which uncovers labor-camp-like working conditions at Apple’s Foxconn supplier in China has gone viral. With 2011 revenues of $92 billion, the contractor, which manufacturers Apple’s Mac computers, iPhones, and iPads is the fourth-largest information technology company in the world. Forced to work in conditions where they are both physically and mentally abused, some workers are driven to suicide, while those who remain are required to work excessive overtime, denied meal breaks, not informed about the chemicals in use, refused the wage increases promised to them, and exposed to two explosions — one that leaves three dead and 15 injured and another that injures 61. Students are asked to take on the role of Apple CEO Tim Cook and respond to a petition by Change.org, signed by 250,000 people calling on Apple to take responsibility for the appalling conditions in its supply chain.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Understand and illustrate how complicated fair labor supply chain issues are in a globalized, interconnected world.
  • Explore responses to viral media relevant to allegations of human rights violations impacting highly recognizable, consumer-facing businesses.
  • Consider the role of businesses in labor rights and responsible contracting.