Apple has faced severe criticism over working conditions in its China factories over the past number of months, but it’s taking concrete steps to improve, said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference Tuesday, Cook detailed a number of the changes he’s spearheading, which will include eliminating underage workers, educating workers on skills and safety, improving safety conditions and managing working hours on a “micro level.”
Some of these changes have been under way for a number of months, but Cook said he’s taking an even bigger step in company transparency: Apple will publish monthly updates on its website that detail its progress.
“In January, we collected weekly data on over a half million workers in our supply chain. We had 84 percent compliance. This is significantly improved from the past, but we can do better. We’re taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website, so it’s transparent to everyone what we’re doing,” Cook said.
While Cook emphasized working conditions, he also tackled such other topics such as Apple’s TV and Cloud strategy. Below are a few noteworthy quotes. You can also listen to the full keynote on Apple’s website.
Cook on Apple’s working conditions …
“Apple takes working conditions very seriously, and we have for a long time. Whether workers are in Europe or Asia, we care about every worker. Our commitment is very simple: We believe every worker has the right to a fair and safe work environment, free of discrimination where they can earn competitive wages. And Apple suppliers must live up to this to do business with Apple.
“We are going deep into the supply chain to fix problems. We believe transparency is so very important in this area. I am so incredibly proud of the work our teams are doing in this area. They focus on the most difficult problems and they stay with them until they fix them.
“We think the use of underage labor is abhorrent. Our top priority is to eliminate it entirely. If we find a supplier who hires underage labor, it is a firing offense. We don’t let anyone cut corners on safety. If there is a fire extinguisher missing from the kitchen, then that facility doesn’t pass the inspection until that fire extinguisher is in place.”
Cook on the iPhone …
“What seems large to me is the opportunity. What we’re focusing on is the same thing we’ve always focused on, which is making the world’s best products. And we think if we stay laser focused on that and continue to develop to the ecosystem around the iPhone, then we have a pretty good opportunity to take advantage of this enormous market.
“What is clearly happening now is that the iPhone is creating a halo for the Macintosh. And the iPhone has also created a halo for the iPad. You can definitely see the synergistic effect of these products, now not only in the developed markets but in those emerging markets, where Apple wasn’t really resident to any degree for most of its life.”
Cook on the success of the iPad …
“Well, the product is absolutely incredible. And the pace of innovation on the product has been incredible. And so, we’ve gone from iPad 1 to iPad 2 in fairly short order. And the ecosystem that developers have helped us build out — there’s 170,00 apps that are optimized for iPad — and so this is incredible. But the reason that it’s so large, in my view, is one: The iPad has stood on the shoulders of everything that came before it.
“Honestly, from the first day it shipped, we – not just me, many of us thought at Apple — thought that the tablet market would become larger than the PC market, and it was just a matter of the time that it took for that to occur. And I feel that stronger today than I did then. Because as I look out and I see all of these incredible usages for it, and I see the incredible race and pace of innovation, and the developers. If we had a meeting today in this hotel and we invited everybody who’s working on the coolest PC apps to come to the meeting, you might not find anybody in the meeting!”
Cook on the Apple TV …
“With Apple TV, however, despite the barriers in that market, for those of us who use it, we have always thought there was something there and if we kept following our intuition and pulling the strings, we might find something that was larger. For those that have it right now, the customer stats are off the charts. But we need something to be more main market before it can become a serious category.”
Cook on Steve Jobs’ legacy …
“Apple is this unique company, unique culture that you can’t replicate. And I’m not going to witness or permit the slow undoing of it because I believe in it so deeply. Steve grilled in all of us, over many years, that the company should revolve around great products, and that we should stay extremely focused on a few things, rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well. And that we should only go into market where we can make a significant contribution to society, not just sell a lot of products in a market.”