Mac Musings

Chinese Greens Would Rather Point the Finger at Apple than at Their Own Countrymen

Daniel Knight - 2011.01.21 -

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Everyone has learned the lesson: Criticize Apple and draw a lot of attention.

For years, people like John C. Dvorak and Paul Thurrott have picked on Apple to get the attention of the Mac Web, where thousands of Mac faithful would dutifully read their diatribes. It was a great way to build traffic to their websites.

Later on, Greenpeace discovered that it worked as well, getting a lot of free press. After all, there's no such thing as a bad link! So what if much of its criticism of Apple was unfounded.

The latest group to follow this tactic is a Chinese environmental group, which has taken a very roundabout way to do it.

There's no question that China has become the world's dumping ground for electronic waste and a leading supplier of electronic components, which create their own toxic waste. And everyone knows that just about anything electronic includes components sourced from China. Products are often assembles there as well to take advantage of a low cost labor pool.

Anyhow, these Chinese environmentalists took a page from the Greenpeace playbook. Find a problem, find a link to Apple, and get the world's attention.

These green groups are not criticizing Apple for its plants in China, because Apple doesn't own any plants in China. Apple contracts with Chinese companies to assemble its computers.

These groups are criticizing Apple not for its own sins but for the sins of its supply chain - poor environmental and safety standards by companies that supply components for Apple products or assemble them.

Think about it. These Chinese environmentalists are getting on Apple's case because of problems in China that are not Apple's doing. It's the Chinese government that allows these environmental and safety problems to persist. Why should it be up to Apple to address what their own government doesn't?

Groups such as the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs may feel self-righteous in putting down Apple for "supply chain malpractice".

This despite the fact that Apple sets standard for and monitors its suppliers.

Is it Apple's fault when a supplier chooses to be environmentally irresponsible or treat its employees poorly? Yet that's one of the things these Chinese environmentalists harp on. The other is that Apple hasn't responded to their requests for information - also a huge factor in Greenpeace's poor ratings for Apple.

"Apple's lack of responsiveness eventually made us quite shocked. It's the whole complacency that it doesn't have to be accountable to the NGOs, to the communities, even to the poisoned workers."

Don't criticize Apple for anything it has done; condemn it for not investing its time to respond to your inquiries. It doesn't matter whether Apple has done anything. These people will paint Apple as the bad guy rather than simply state the truth: Apple chose not to respond to our requests for information.

Honestly, I would love to see Apple be more responsive and responsible in these areas, something many of its competitors are doing. Apple has the resources. More than that, Apple has a very high public profile. It should be a good world citizen. And perhaps it should set higher standards for its suppliers than their own governments do.

But if these Chinese greens want to fix the problem, they shouldn't lay it at Apple's door. It is their own countrymen and their own government that are responsible. Stop pointing the finger overseas for a problem in your own backyard.

I applaud these environmentalists for their concern, for their research, and for their desire to get the word out by whatever means possible. This may be the best way to pressure their government and Chinese businesses to raise the bar, but the problem really isn't Apple - it's greedy profiteering by their countrymen.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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