Apple should take cues from Nike on its supply chain
By Dave Meyer
SEEDS Global Alliance
Last week, on the way to a meeting in Portland I tuned into the local sports-radio station. Nationally syndicated sports commentator Dan Patrick was providing his one-minute "Above the Noise" segment. The focus was on if, how and when sports icons that have fallen from grace (due to an off-the-field indiscretion) could ever redeem themselves in the public court of opinion. Could they ever regain public acceptance to be ‘marketable’ commodities again? Think player product endorsements. Think Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest — the list is to lengthy to cover here, but you get the idea. Most who have regained endorsement status (like Bryant) have either redeemed themselves through community service and on-field performance, but often the public just forgets. The past indiscretions have faded from the tabloids.
This sounded very familiar when it comes to companies — manufacturers in particular — and the ways in which they address sustainability. I am thinking of manufacturers who have made environmentally impactful products, and willingly or knowingly conducted socially irresponsible or possibly unethical business practices that have led to public backlash. Some have been able to successfully "redeem" themselves and regain a positive marketplace reputation, while others never quite recovered.
According to a report issued by anti-pollution activists in China, Apple is more secretive about its supply chain than almost every other American company operating in the country. Apple came up among the laggards among 29 major electronics and IT firms in a transparency study drawn up by a coalition of China's leading environmental groups. The reports focused on "the openness of IT firms and their responsiveness to reports of environmental violations at suppliers." Though Apple is known in the industry for the secrecy it wraps around its newest product offerings, the "mystery of its supply chain is more a matter of covering up than preventing leaks," the report stated. The report claims Apple's suppliers have been involved in breaches of environmental regulation, including major waste discharge violations in recent years at several Chinese firms that are believed to be be part of Apple's supply chain. To be fair, Nokia, LG, SingTel, Sony and Ericsson also fared poorly in the survey, but Apple stood out in how it did not address and respond to the findings.
Dave Meyer is VP of Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development Solutions (SEEDS) Global Alliance (Northwest Operations), assisting organizations on business process improvement, “triple bottom line” sustainability, green supply chain and regulatory compliance management. You can follow Dave on Twitter@DRMeyer1. More supply chain advice is available via Dave's Valuestream blog.
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