Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Tim Cook blasts the New York Times' report on Apple's Chinese iPad factories

January 27, 2012: 12:16 PM ET

Calls the suggestion that his company doesn't care about the health and safety of workers in the supply chain he built "patently false and offensive"

Tim Cook

Cook

Here's one thing that's changed since Steve Jobs died.

When Tim Cook, Apple's (AAPL) new CEO, thinks his company has been wronged by the media, he doesn't shrink from hitting back -- swiftly and in a way that he knows will quickly become public.

This report that got Cook's goat -- the second in a New York Times series about working conditions in the Chinese factories that build nearly all of Apple's products -- was particularly painful, we imagine, on several levels:

  • As Apple's long-time chief operating officer, he personally assembled the supply chain on which the paper cast such a harsh light
  • Apple is hardly the only U.S. electronics company that exploits an Asian labor force willing to work harder, for longer hours, in more onerous conditions and for considerably less pay than Americans. But as every business editor knows, Apple is the brand that draws the most readers.
  • Apple, it can be argued, has done more than any of its competitors to monitor and improve the working conditions the Times' reporters zeroed in on
  • Two of the harshest quotes in their piece came from current or former Apple employees

That last item may have stung the most. And you can almost hear the fury in Cook's message to his staff. It begins:

"As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple's values today, and I'd like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are."

The full text, first unearthed Thursday by 9to5Mac and confirmed by us as genuine, below the fold.

Team,

As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple's values today, and I'd like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are.

For the many hundreds of you who are based at our suppliers' manufacturing sites around the world, or spend long stretches working there away from your families, I know you are as outraged by this as I am. For the people who aren't as close to the supply chain, you have a right to know the facts.

Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we've made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people.

At the same time, no one has been more up front about the challenges we face. We are attacking problems aggressively with the help of the world's foremost authorities on safety, the environment, and fair labor. It would be easy to look for problems in fewer places and report prettier results, but those would not be the actions of a leader.

Earlier this month we opened our supply chain for independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association. Apple was in a unique position to lead the industry by taking this step, and we did it without hesitation. This will lead to more frequent and more transparent reporting on our supply chain, which we welcome. These are the kinds of actions our customers expect from Apple, and we will take more of them in the future.

We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment. As you know, more than a million people have been trained by our program.

We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.

To those within Apple who are tackling these issues every day, you have our thanks and admiration. Your work is significant and it is changing people's lives. We are all proud to work alongside you.

Tim

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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