Social Responsibility in the Corporate World

I’m not going to lie – I listen to a lot of NPR. A lot.

Two recent NPR stories are directly related to American manufacturing. This American Life’s Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory takes a deeper look into Apple’s manufacturer for their sleek new products, Foxconn. [Warning: it will make you massively guilty for succumbing to every new gadget Apple releases. You win, iPhone 4S.] Talk of the Nation’s The Future of America’s Manufacturing Jobs discusses why American output is up, yet our jobs continue to disappear.

An Apple executive was quoted in the NYT’s article, “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.” I’d like to take a step back. Do companies have a responsibility to address factors other than their products or services? Has a company that once prided itself on American manufacturing sold its soul for exploiting cheap labor in an Asian factory?

YES. ABSOLUTELY.

Organizations, whether a local mom and pop business or a Fortune 500 corporation, have the power to make a difference to its economy, usually local economy for the former and regional/global for the latter. As public entities, I believe organizations have a duty to act responsibly for the collective being, not solely their private interests. That doesn’t necessarily mean the public dictates every business move, but decisions based on the best interest for all are part of social, economic and corporate responsibility. Sure it might cut their profits, but money shouldn’t be the deciding factor for every business decision.

Ten years ago, an Apple computer was almost unheard of and an iPhone was imagineable. With rising popularity and a drastic shift in demand, Apple has moved its production to a Chinese manufacturer with questionable business practices, Foxconn. Steve Jobs was quoted for saying, “I’m as proud of the factory as I am the computer” regarding NeXT’s American factory. Why did Jobs drastically change his stance on conditions of factories? Ahhhhh, unfortunately, money makes the world go around. And, Apple, a company that prides itself for thinking differently, has followed the predictable path of cheap labor and resources. Another one bites the dust…

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