ARD announced that there will be a new documentary regarding the working conditions at Foxconn factories and Apple’s involvement (or lack thereof) in solving the problems at those factories. The scandal will be rehashed and investigated in the new documentary. Even though I haven’t seen the documentary, I already have a good idea of what to expect.

ARD Documentary Scandal: Apple is Not the Problem

For 3 or 4 years now we’ve heard daily from this unruly animal named Foxconn. We’ve heard about the struggle to improve working conditions in Taiwan and Mainland China. And time and time again we hear that Apple is to blame, even though half of the companies in the tech industry call Foxconn their home as well. Let me just give you an idea of the big fish who produce their components in Foxconn Factories:

  • Acer Inc.
  • Cisco
  • Dell
  • Google
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Microsoft
  • Motorola Mobility
  • Nintendo
  • Nokia
  • Sony
  • Toshiba
  • Vizio

Welcome to the reunion of the biggest players in the tech industry! Apple isn’t even the biggest fish in this sea of tech giants. Google and Microsoft also produce components at Foxconn, but do you ever hear their names mentioned in the media? I thought not.

It could have something to so with Steve Job’s rather sarcastic treatment of the situation in an interview in which he discussed the many suicides at Foxconn.

His utopian picture of factory life may also have had something to do with it. The master of the “Reality Distortion Field” sure messed up on that one.

Nevertheless we have to remember that it’s not just the big companies or the power hungry, money crazed CEO’s bent on an ever increasing profit margin that are at fault here, it’s us. As consumers we constantly demand something new, something better, something cheaper. While the CEO’s grow rich, the investors flourish and we consumers get our fix, someone on the other side of the planet has to pay for it.


Yesterday it was Thailand (for the hard drive industry, it is by the way, it still is), now it’s China and tomorrow it will be Brazil. The locusts will devour the local workers and they’ll simply move on their merry way to find more workers. Our western consumer society will not care one bit. The main thing is the bling bling, the status symbol and every year a new smartphone!

And did we think we could fix all the problems generated by the technology industry by snapping our fingers? Fixed batteries in laptops, tablets and smartphones…. just ask the person in charge if recycling how its going. Somewhere in Africa there is a 12 year old child rummaging through our trash looking for bits of precious metal and things of value. Meanwhile toxic fumes and radiation from our great technological triumphs are our gifts to that child, who if she’s lucky will grow up to be in her late 20’s!

E Waste in Ghana

That is the reality and its’ not Apple’s problem, or Microsoft’s or Google’s. It’s the problem of a ruthless, greedy consumer society that blathers on about infinite growth.

Apple is the sacrificial lamb, that company that is just oh so very evil. There are no less skeletons in the closets of other OEM’s that have struck it rich at Foxconn.

I wonder when these fundamental questions will be made into a documentary instead of dumping the blame on the most convenient scapegoat: Apple.

P.S. I know that I have traditionally been very harsh on Apple ( and continue to be so) and that I run a website about technology which promotes new innovations. If you want to label me as one of the gadget obsessed, heartless consumers, so be it. But I have plenty of ideas on the subject. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

(Translated from the German by Sascha Pallenberg)

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  • Guest008

    It’s ok to be counscious of our responsability as customers. Our choices (or abscence there of) have consequences.
    BUT it’s not to constantly blame customers that can afford anything else than cheap devices.
    And, if all companies use the same factories who have more or less the same (shameful) working conditions, how can we make a real choice.

    But, more importantly, we are NOT responsible for the margins companies like Apple make on their devices.
    These companies don’t use factories like Foxconn to lower prices but to lower COSTS, for them to increase (at the customer’s expense) margins, not for us to have decent prices reflecting the cost of manufacturing.

    The worst (for us and in termes of margins) happens in the smartphone industry:
    Look at tablet (which are bigger phones with bigger more expensive screens, more RAM, more storage…) prices compared to (unsubsidized) phones.
    Now compare their manufacturing costs…
    Don’t see a problem there?