Before explaining how Apple’s philosophy & corporate culture have affected its handling of ethical issues, we should take a glance at the uniqueness of Apple’s philosophy and culture. 1. Having some loyal customers who work as “evangelists” and draws in more customers to the “Mac cult”. 2. Encouraging debates on ideas and a motivational vision for employees. 3. Elimination of layered organizational structure. 4. Fast-paced, innovative work environment instead of traditional office hours. 5. More careful customer relation management.
Providing proper training to the employees that are directly connected to consumers and also good remuneration to motivate them. 6. As a concerned firm toward environment. 7. Integrity in every dealings, Innovation and ensuring high quality products. 8. Ensuring proper labour rights for its suppliers in different parts of the world. From the above points, it can be assumed that Apple is a very responsible as well as an innovative firm with some unique corporate characteristics. Now these issues have some contradictory outcomes when it comes to their ethical issues.
Apple is very much dedicated to maintain the quality of their products as if Apple has become the synonym of Quality. Now with such a constant improvements of their products they have build up a customer group so strong that they have been able to achieve huge sales despite of having some problems in their product. One of the four principles contributing to their “integrity” is confidentiality. In the case, the problem was stated that the iPhones could collect data on phone’s location. Icials claimed that this was breach of privacy.
Apple has responded to this issue by correcting the problem with new software. However, it remains a controversial issue. As mentioned above Apple is responsible towards reducing environment pollution. For this they provided transportation service to its employees, which were run by bio-diesel to lower emission as well reduce fuel costs. To reduce the e-waste Apple uses recyclable materials for their products. Customers can trade old apple products and get discounts in the new products. As innovation is one of Apple’s major strength, it has also given some contradictory situation for them.
Apple is very much insistent in protecting their product ideas, design and these have leaded them to many lawsuits some of them, which were on their favor, and some of them were against them. However, this brings about a question that whether they are going for law suits from sincere protective mentality of their innovative products or whether they want their competitors in an critical situation. With their concern for the labour units, as they manufacture the parts in countries where labour is cheap, Apple wants to avoid any injustice towards the labor.
That is why they require their suppliers to agree to “Suppliers Code of Conduct” and they simply reject to do business with them if they do not agree. Apple also has policies for ensuring improved corporate governance, reduce conflict of interests and they have proper channel for employees to file any improper act. “Around 150 Chinese workers at Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, threatened to commit suicide by leaping from their factory roof in protest at their working conditions.
The workers were eventually coaxed down after two days on top of their three-floor plant in Wuhan by Foxconn managers and local Chinese Communist party officials. ” Source: (The Telegraph,11th Jan 2012) Despite Apple’s assurance for commitment of better working condition, incident like Foxconn took place, which puts a question mark to their Code of ethics. Answer to the question # 2 Apple is doing business in an industry that is ever changing. At first Apple was just a computer producing company. But in course of time it has expanded its business in consumer electronics, online media, operating software, tablets etc.
These products need innovation and creativity. Companies battling in this industry are restlessly striving for bringing new and more convenient gadgets for users. Apple is undoubtedly the pioneer firm. Their innovation and quality are their remarkable attributes. But their competitors are continuously motivated to bring about some competitive products. The problem that Apple might have in this sort of highly competitive market is that, they might find themselves in more conflicting situation when it comes to protecting their intellectual properties and patents.
As the case states that Apple is very much possessive with their innovation, they have run into some lawsuits that created controversy and it has hampered to their reputation to some extent. In the days to come, competition will grow higher and they will continue bring in new products and the will want to protect them from theft of being copied. This problem may lead to a situation where Apple will be having more lawsuits placing them in a more controversial position regarding their ethics in dealing of their competitors.
From the analysis of the case study given a solid conclusion cannot be drawn that Apple’s success in unscratched in case of ethical issues. Neither can it be said that their efforts were a complete failure. Apple’s ethical concern stretches out to environmental protection from e-waste, ensuring safety, health and environment of the employees, assurance of high quality, innovation, prohibition from using third party intellectual property and copyright protected contends. However, in all these ethical issues Apple has not been able to score as it was expected for its image.
Among the above issues, the case study shows that environment issues have been one of their appreciable initiatives. Using material that can be recycled, Using LEDs instead of fluorescent lamps, elimination of toxic chemicals are some forms of Apple’s innovation for reducing e-waste. They also offer discount on purchase of apple products if the customer gives back any old apple products. Apple has several pages on their official site dedicated to addressing ethical issues and consumer concerns about their products and company:
1. Apple and the Environment: The story behind Apple’s environmental footprint (This page takes you through Apple’s total footprint, from manufacturing to transportation to product use and recyclability) 2. Apple and the Environment: Designed for energy efficiency 3. Apple and the Environment: FAQ 4. Apple and the Environment: Measuring performance, one product at a time (This page includes PDFs of reports about environmental performance of Apple products and facilities, supplier responsibility, and others).
Apple Recycling Program 6. Supplier Responsibility at Apple (Highlights Apple’s Code of Conduct for companies they do business with, such as manufacturers abroad) (Source: http://appleblogr. blogspot. com) When it comes to patents and copyrights, Apple prefers to be in hard line. Lawsuits against Microsoft, Cisco, Samsung, Napster (Cohen) all left a bruise over the image of the Most Admired Company. With the case of Cisco, Apples attitude was somewhat deceive, though they both ended up with allowance of using the same name.
“Apple initially called the lawsuit “silly” and argued that it was entitled to use the name because the phones operate over different networks and would not compete with each other….. Negotiations between the companies broke down just hours before Jobs’ dramatic unveiling of the product Jan. 9 in San Francisco. ” (Source: http://www. msnbc. msn. com) This remained a controversial issue ever since. Another significant lawsuit was against Microsoft in which outcome was in favor of Microsoft. This lawsuit stained the relationship of these two giants as well as hampering the reputation of Apple.
The lawsuit related to Napster was although in Apples favor, it left an imprint of unjustified biasness towards the large company. Considering all the lawsuits that took place, either against or in favor of Apple, I reckon that Apple was not successful in handling their ethical issues; these were more like a hostile attitude and less of a protective attitude for their patents and copyrights. Apple’s aggressive policies have cost them their standing, to some extent, as an ethically sound company claimed by the Apple team.