Lessons from Foxconn

By Freddie Pierce
The cost to these kinds of leaps forward always seems to be too high, but theres cause for hope in the supply chain scandal that enveloped the worlds r...

The cost to these kinds of leaps forward always seems to be too high, but there’s cause for hope in the supply chain scandal that enveloped the world’s richest company these past months.  Since Apple’s profile is so high – with both ordinary Americans and finance leaders taking its business operations to heart – the revelation that it profits from a cruelly managed supply chain struck many personally.

The facts as they were uncovered may not surprise veterans of the global supply chain – whether they believe it needs to be changed or not.  But the public attention was really a fortuitous marriage of ignorance and empathy, because it isn’t all that naïve to believe that something’s wrong when workers are throwing themselves off buildings.

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If the actions of the public weren’t all that naïve, then the actions of the business community weren’t all that cynical either.  It turns out that supply chain managers’ understanding of their field has deepened to include sustainability.  Badly treated workers, bad waste management practices, and bad public image are all…well, bad, and they hurt the bottom line sooner or later.

The fact is that supply chain officers looking to maximize efficiency and activists looking to bolster human rights and environmental standards have a lot more in common than they know.  Now, with the dialogue opening up to actors outside of the field, we have the potential to transform the global supply chain paradigm.

Given their leadership role among American corporations, Apple has a real shot at change.  Come on, supply chain guys.  Think different.

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