Apple lifts the lid on its supply chain

Apple lifts the lid on its supply chain

Posted by Pete Loughlin in Supply Chain 20 Jan 2012

It’s been my guilty secret for a few years now. I buy Apple stuff. Why the guilt? Because of Apple’s reputation about their supply practices.

The reputation says that Apple products are built in factories in far flung places where working conditions are so poor that overworked and underpaid staff are flinging themselves from the rooftops. But actually, the facts about Apple’s supply chain have been difficult to ascertain because, like their product development, the details have always been a closely guarded secret. Until now that is.

Purchasing Insight logoIn an addendum to their sixth annual supplier responsibility report the computer giant has, for the first time, revealed the details of its supplier base. It’s been reported widely that the list of 156 of it suppliers represents “97%  of Apple’s procurement expenditures for materials, manufacturing and assembly of Apple’s products worldwide”.

So what does the list reveal? It tells us that Apple’s supply chain isn’t quite as rotten to the core as the worst of the rumor mongers might have had us believe. It also tells us that they’re not perfect but no less perfect than the rest of their industry but apart from that, it probably doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know in terms of who and where the suppliers are.  It does reveal something else though. Not about Apple. About us. It reminds us that we’re all prepared to suspend our belief in ethical sourcing if it means getting our hands on great products.

We shouldn’t be patting Apple on the back. They’re just doing what they should be doing as a responsible manufacturer. It’s OK to maintain commercial confidentiality about product design and even about supplier relationships, but it’s not OK to be guarded about sourcing ethics. Instead of congratulating Apple, we should be breathing a sigh of relief that despite our worst fears about the working practices of Apple’s supply chain, they’re amongst the good guys after all.

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