Apple Computers, Inc. is one of the world’s largest technology companies. The company has its headquarters in Cupertino, California. Apple sets a variety of electronic products that include computers, computer software, computer hardware accessories, smart phones, and portable media players. Consumers associate Apple with its ‘i’ products. These include the iPhone, iTunes, iPad, iPod and iMac. Apple has revolutionalised the music industry, through iTunes and iPod. This has made the company the most valuable company in the world (Klein, 2011, p. 1). In addition, the company’s smart phones continue to attract wide recognition from various parties. The company is one of the largest sellers of smart phones globally. The company owes much of its success to its founder and visionary leader, Steve Jobs. Before his death, Jobs helped to launch several products that changed the market and improved the company profitability. The latest products from the company are the iPhone and the iPad. These products contribute a sizeable percent of the company’s revenue. This has made the company reduce its dependence on the sale of personal computers. However, despite the company’s success, the company faces several ethical issues. The company is the largest technology firm yet it is conspicuously absent in corporate social responsibility activities. In addition, the company faces some ethical problems. Some of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of the company use child labour in making various components.

Apple CSR Policies

Most modern day companies engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR). These companies acknowledge the importance of CSR in their businesses. CSR is one of the strategic decisions of the company, which is vital to ensure the business continued growth. CSR necessitates companies to evaluate the impact of social behaviour on their areas of operation. Leading multinationals regularly issue CSR reports that show the impact of their social behaviour on the community (Idowu & Filho, 2008, p. 74). Companies use CSR to improve their image. CSR helps companies to give back to the community and help to improve the welfare of the community. Companies that strategically plan their CSR activities, gain a competitive edge over their rivals. This is because CSR helps to build the reputation of the company. Consumers would like to associate with a company that cares about their social needs, not just a company whose main activity is to siphon the customers’ money.

Apple’s Sustainability Focus

Global warming has increased people’s awareness of environmental issues. Consumers and governments demand that companies should have sustainable operations. Operations of companies should not lead to environmental degradation. Environmental awareness has made companies incorporate sustainability into its main strategic decisions. Technology companies produce various products that lead to environmental degradation. Apple acknowledges the importance of ensuring that its activities are sustainable. The company strives to ensure that its activities do not lead to environmental degradation. PVC is one of the toxic materials that electronic companies use in the manufacture of various components. Apple is the first major technology company to use PVC-free cords (Lannuzzi, 2011. p. 71).

Apple’s commitment to reduce toxic materials in its products made it the first company to eliminate cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in 2006. CRTs contain approximately 1.36 kg of lead, a highly toxic compound that causes neurological problems. In addition, Apple’s products have arsenic and mercury-free displays – other toxic compounds that are in displays of products of other companies. Packaging material also leads to environmental degradation. Using a large amount of packaging material means that there is more emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the manufacture of the packaging material. Apple ensures that its products use very little packaging material (Lannuzzi, 2011, p. 68). Use of small quantity of packaging material ensures that there is very little emission of GHG in the manufacture of the packaging material.

Sustainable companies ensure that their activities use extremely low amounts of energy or their products are energy efficient. Making energy efficient products may mean redesigning the products. The logic behind energy efficiency is that products or machines that use more energy ultimately lead to environmental degradation as they emit more GHG. Apple products are among the most energy efficient products globally. The company has been able to reduce the energy consumption of its products, by using energy efficient liquid crystal (LCD) displays instead of CRT. In addition, Apple continuously strives to reduce the quantity of energy it uses as a corporation. The company encourages carpooling of its employees by offering a $ 100 monthly subsidy to employees to carpool. Apple also provides free bus services to its employees to reduce energy consumption (Webber, Webber & Wallace, 2009, p. 125). Apple has successfully been able to differentiate its products based on energy efficiency.

Companies ensure that they use a high percentage of recycled products. Recycled products use less energy in their manufacture than new products. In addition, using recycled products is more cost effective than manufacturing new products. Recycling of electronic products helps to reduce electronic waste, which leads to environmental degradation. This is because electronic products contain toxic products such as mercury or silicon that may pollute the environment (Parsons & Oja, 2009, p. 107). Apple has recycling initiatives in 95 percent of the countries where it sells its products. These initiatives have enabled the company to recycle more than 130 million pounds of products since 1994. Apple has a global recycling rate of 66.4 percent. This is the highest recycling rate in the industry. Other PC manufacturers have a recycling rate of less than 20 percent (Lannuzzi, 2011, p. 69). Apple also recycles electronic products from other companies. The company gives customers a discount of 10 percent if the customer returns an iPod to an Apple store for recycling during purchase of a new iPod (Webber, Webber & Wallace, 2009, p. 125). Apple strives to improve its recycling rate. Recycling has enabled the company to reduce a large quantity of electronic waste of not just its products but also the products of other electronic companies.

Environmental awareness necessitates companies to change their promotional methods. Companies that seem to be more sustainable gain a competitive edge over their rivals. Sustainability reports are one of the methods that companies use to show their levels of sustainability. Apple offers an annual sustainability report that shows the company’s recycling efforts, management of its facilities and sustainability of its suppliers’ operations (Dalton, Hoyle & Watts, 2010, p. 303). This helps Apple to improve its image and reputation.

HIV/AIDS Initiatives

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Companies are global corporate citizens. Therefore, they should dissociate from the problems that various people in the world face. Companies should help disadvantaged citizens to tackle various problems. Thus, most companies take part in initiatives that help in solving various problems that their customers face. AIDS and access to healthcare are the main problems that countries in the developing world face. Various leading multinationals take part in initiatives that help to improve the lives of people in the developing world, by engaging in AIDS and healthcare provision initiatives. Product (Red) is one of the significant initiatives that help in tackling the AIDS pandemic in developing countries. Product (Red) is a global initiative that aid at raising funds to help in fighting malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. However, Product (Red) also ensures that these companies make money from the initiative (O’Grady, 2009, p. 136). Apple is extensively involved in Product (Red) activities. Apple offered a limited edition of the iPod nano that helped to raise funds for the Product (Red) initiative (Lamb, Hair & McDaniel, 2008, p. 85). In so doing, Apple helps with vast sums of money in tackling malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.

Ethical Issues

Organisations should ensure that they cater for the needs of their employees. After all, satisfied employees would be more productive that dissatisfied employees. Improved productivity would make the company gain a competitive edge over its rivals. In addition, companies should ensure that their suppliers meet certain standards of labour and human rights. There are several government regulations that ensure that companies treat their employees humanely. However, each company has several measures that attempt to increase employee satisfaction. Companies that are leaders in their respective industries, ensure that their employees are highly satisfied. Apple strives to meet the needs of its employees to increase their productivity and enable the company to maintain its competitive edge over its rivals.

Apple attempts to build excellent relationships with its suppliers. The reputation of the company helps to attract major suppliers of various products to the company. However, the suppliers must accept certain rules of engagement to qualify as suppliers of Apple. Suppliers must ensure that they treat their employees well according to the certain guidelines of Apple (Rogers, 2009, p. 101). Apple continuously scrutinises the working conditions of its suppliers. It ensures that no supplier mistreat its employees. Apple sets standards with regard to medical non-discrimination, dormitories and juvenile (under 18 years) workers protection. The company does not prohibit juvenile employees from working in the suppliers’ factories. However, Apple specifies the working conditions of juveniles. In some instances, juveniles are prohibited from working above certain heights. In addition, Apple regularly offers the employees of their suppliers training on their rights and labour laws in their jurisdictional areas (Bassi, Frauenheim & Costello, 2011, p. 193). Training makes employees of Apple’s suppliers know their rights reducing the probability of the suppliers mistreating the employees.

Apple also helps to improve the welfare of employees of their suppliers. The company offers training to employees of the suppliers in collaboration with the local universities (Bassi, Frauenheim & Costello, 2011, p. 193). This helps to improve knowledge of the suppliers’ employees and makes them produce high quality products, which make the company gain a competitive edge over its rivals. Apple operates in a knowledge intensive industry. Technical knowledge is vital for an organisation in the technology industry to have a competitive advantage over its rivals. Apple appreciates the importance of knowledge in making its business continue to flourish. The company goes to great lengths to ensure that its employees are highly trained. Apple ensures that there are technical support professionals in all their retail stores. These employees receive extensive training to enable them to deal with various problems that they experience on a daily basis. In addition, apple helps in paying tuition fees of some employees to help to improve their knowledge and skills (Bassi, Frauenheim & Costello, 2001, p. 33). Training enables employees to respond to various customer needs. Thus, training helps to improve the image and competitiveness of the company as the employees efficiently respond to the customer needs.

However, despite several measures that Apple takes, to ensure fair treatment of its employees and those of its suppliers, the company regularly encounters problems. Employees in some Apple suppliers work in deplorable conditions. However, the suppliers are able to hide the fact that they mistreat their workers from Apple. In fact, in 2011, Apple acknowledged that there were 91 children, below 16 years old, who were working in plants of its suppliers in China. These children receive less than $1 an hour despite making expensive apples products (Congress, 2011, p. 79). There are also allegations that Chinese companies pay their employees peanuts while working under deplorable working conditions. Foxconn, one of Apples principal suppliers of iPhone and iPad has been of mistreating its employees. The company overworks its employees and does not pay them for the extra hours they work. Revelation of mistreatment of employees of the company necessitated it to come up with radical measures to clear its image. The company reduced the working hours of the employees making them earn the same amount of money but after working for a shorter duration of time (Gupta & Chan, 2012, para 4). The company introduced these measures due to the pressure from Apple and other companies such as Dell, who are some of the main clients of Foxconn. Unfair labour practices of Apple’s suppliers lead to tarnishing of Apples’ brand. Apple relies on its brand heavily for its competitiveness. Thus, wrong practices of suppliers would make the brand be associated with human right abuse. This would have dire consequences for the company. Apple regularly audits its suppliers to ensure that they adhere to labour practices that are acceptable according to Apple’s standards. Apple eliminates companies that do not meet the labour standards of its employees, from its list of suppliers. This forces companies to have fair labour practices to reduce the risk of Apple terminating the supply of their products to the company. However, the large number of Apple’s suppliers makes it difficult to monitor all suppliers. Some suppliers are able to conceal their malpractices from Apple.

Apple strives to maintain its brand image to improve its competitiveness. The company successfully uses sustainability to enhance its reputation. Sustainability of the company’s operations and its products makes the company a global leader in sustainability. In addition, Apple has certain standards that its suppliers must meet. This ensures that suppliers do not mistreat their employees and tarnish the image of the company. Apple gives back to the society by taking part in several initiatives that aim to improve the lives of the less fortunate. These activities have tremendously helped Apple to maintain its reputation.

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