Apple's Factories to Get Inspected by Outside Agency

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on February 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Apple factories may soon be getting an outside audit.

The move comes in response to outcry over the conditions in some Apple factories abroad, particularly in China. Just last month, The New York Times published a lengthy article about the working conditions inside the factories.

Foxconn is one of Apple's largest -- and most important -- manufacturing partners. The company operates a major plant in Chengdu. Last year, an explosion ripped through the factory. The cause: aluminum dust. Several workers died, others were injured. But the explosion was not the only cause for concern.

Workers committed suicide. Some allegedly worked many overtime hours. Employees developed swollen legs as they were required to stand during shifts, according to the Times.

It certainly wasn't good publicity for the high-tech company. Perhaps that's why it's responded to some of the concerns. The company released the name of some of their suppliers. And now they are instituting outside audits. These audits are to be completed by a nonprofit called the Fair Labor Association. The aim of the audits is to find out which factories and manufacturers are in violation.

Some think that the audits won't go far enough, as the FLA is associated with corporations. The organization was established in 1999 by President Clinton and some other companies, including Nike. Its goal was to end unfair and unsafe conditions.

The issue may boil down to whether or not consumers are willing to pay higher prices. Apple may also need to be willing to take a lower profit margin. "If you squeeze margins, you're forcing them [suppliers] to cut safety," said one Apple executive to The New York Times.

The Apple factory's outside audits may also take time. By the end, the FLA will have inspected factories that constitute 90% of Apple's manufacturing.

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