Categories:  'Environmental Justice'  

The Environmental and Social Costs of our Electronics

The iPad, iPhone, and other Apple products have transformed countless aspects of our daily lives over the past decade or more. For most Americans, Apple [...]

The iPad, iPhone, and other Apple products have transformed countless aspects of our daily lives over the past decade or more. For most Americans, Apple devices have made their lives easier and more convenient, from catching a ride to the airport to producing the newest cute cat video.

But the visibility of Apple devices and other personal electronics belies the invisibility of the environmental and social damages the technology industry wreaks around the world.

The workers who manufacture shiny new iPhones and iPads “often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.” Excessive overtime, improper disposal of hazardous waste, and a general disregard for workers’ well-being in Apple’s suppliers’ factories threaten the health and lives of employees.

Like many multi-national corporations, Apple has outsourced its manufacturing to countries where labor standards are lower and workers lack legal protections – other tech companies accused of endangering workers’ health and safety include “Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, [and] Toshiba.”

Apple has made moves to protect worker safety and report incidents, but former employees report “an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products.” In other words, worker safety remains subordinate to company reputation and profits.

Image: Emergency responders treat patients at the scene of an explosion in May of 2011 at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, that killed four people and injured 18. The factory built iPads.Credit: Color China Photo, via Associated Press

Articles

Publication Date: 25/01/2012
Source: The New York Times
Author: Charles Duhigg and David Barboza