Your supplier’s employees are committing suicide. News articles are showing up mentioning your company’s name as a major customer. Your actions are being tracked carefully. (Apple and Dell investigate Foxconn plant)
Headlines like: Foxconn Makes Employees Promise Not to Kill Themselves, Plenty of Foxconn shame to go around, and Foxconn suicides: capitalism and Marxism treat men like animals cover articles that name Apple, HP, Nokia and Dell as key customers. The term fair trade electronics gets increased currency.
What went wrong here? It would be professional malpractice to even venture a guess without talking to any of the principals involved. Instead I’ll write about electronic industry practice and ask a question or two.
The electronic industry has an Electronic Industry Code of Conduct that major buyers require suppliers to agree to follow. You can download a copy from the EICC site. You can also see the logos of their members, which include Foxconn. It looks like a good specification to me. It covers the key issues of employee relations and environmental responsibility and requires that signers require at least their first level suppliers to comply.
Of course, a key question is whether Foxconn actually complies or just agreed to comply. I don’t think anyone not directly involved can answer that.
So here are my questions:
- What do others think of the EICC specification?
- And do other industries have similar, cooperatively developed codes of conduct (on a global scale)?
Let’s get some discussion going.