Apple Alone in Factory Audits

Tech rivals aren’t rushing to follow Apple’s lead in assessing plants in China.

Apple Inc.’s rivals aren’t rushing to emulate the iPhone maker’s decision to subject supplier factories to audits by a labor group. Instead, they’re sticking to internal checks that may leave room for violations -- and negative public relations fallout.

Apple said on Feb. 14 the Fair Labor Association had started independent audits amid criticism of conditions at its plants in China. Companies including Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. rely on their own evaluations, based in part on guidelines from the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, which they say are sufficient to prevent abuses.

Internal Audits

When it comes to ensuring factories’ ability to reliably make a quality product, most companies in the EICC insist that all factories earn certifications to ensure a plant can reliably deliver high-quality products.

Microsoft, Dell, Samsung

Companies that are part of the EICC defend their practices even if they don’t plan to partner with FLA. Microsoft, whose Xbox game system is assembled by Foxconn, said it has a code of conduct that suppliers are required to meet, including factory inspections, or they risk losing contracts. Dell, the third-largest maker of personal computers, has employees inspect suppliers’ operations, including Foxconn’s, said David Frink, a spokesman. “It’s an ongoing process,” he said. “We’re encouraged by the progress.” Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker last year, said it has a “limited” relationship with Foxconn. The company doesn’t have any current plans to partner with the Fair Labor Association and will continue to monitor production on its own.

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