Apple may or may not respond to the negative buzz on the Web in reaction to an in-depth article in the New York Times about brutal working conditions enforced by its manufacturing partners in China, but, for the moment, the social responsibility of all U.S. companies that rely on overseas labor is a front-burner issue.
The article details how Apple's allowance for "only the slimmest of profits" for its Chinese manufacturing partners forces them to cut corners that put workers' lives at risk. The immediate buzz on the Web in response to the story has been a mixture of people blaming Apple for not going to greater lengths to ensure that its supply partners allow for basic humane working conditions and blasting Apple evangelists who look the other way.
Apple’s situation is not unique—most high tech companies have their products manufactured overseas. Rest assured that in the coming days, U.S. companies that rely on overseas labor will be monitoring not only how the public continues to react to the story in the Times, but how Apple—now the most valuable company in the world after a record-breaking fiscal first quarter—chooses to respond. If Apple takes a proactive approach and vows to get tougher on its manufacturing partners, other companies may follow suit. And if the topic fades from view, it's back to the status quo.
Now is the time, while the issue is still hot, for brands that are manufacturing products in the U.S. to seize the moment, take advantage of a real PR opportunity and blast out this truly patriotic message: "Made in U.S.A."
Follow Sahil Patel: @sizpatel