Apple has been criticized for at least the past three years for acting unethically and hiring cheap labor in China. Working conditions, work hours, and wages are most often condemned. Although these claims have hurt Apple’s reputation in the short term, it remains a leading innovator and contributor to the advancement of technology and communication specifically. As Ed Freeman states in his “Business Ethics at the Millennium”, “business as an institution is a source of the creation of value…the creative force of humans is the engine of capitalism” (Freeman 177). Though Apple may hire cheap labor in order to drive its profits or keep the price of its new iPhone affordable, it is Apple’s social responsibility to treat its employees ethically.
By continuing to be innovative and contributing to the advancement of society, Apple will remain profitable and can still please its stakeholders without being unethical. Innovation can be inhibited if values and ethics are ignored. Freeman supports this by stating, “if business is separate from values and ethics, and if change requires one to think about values and ethics, then change in business will be difficult” (Freeman 175). In order to maintain its well-respected reputation, Apple should reconsider its values and continue to focus more on its innovation than cost cutting metrics.
I’ve been doing some outside research on an eye glasses supplier, Warby Parker, that has created record earnings over the past two years. Warby Parker is a eye glasses company that sells vintage, hip frames for roughly $100, which is much less than the stylish competitor (where designer frames can cost $200- $400 more). Business Week interviewed the founders of the organization after it met its revenue goals in the first three weeks of opening. While the organization is incredibly profitable, their vision and goals would align with the way that Ed Freeman views organizations.
The organization has the potential to make much more than they currently do in profit, but instead it gives glasses to visually impaired people in less developed countries with its “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. The organization extensively identifies the stakeholders affected by their business and are not shy to let people know, via their website. The company labels itself a “Good Company,” and has information on the organization’s influence on their employees, customers, community, and environment (they even sponsor a local little league team). As Ed Freeman said in his article, “In Colins and Porras’ ‘Built to Last’ they have detailed company after company that has outstanding performance in part because the companies have a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning that is transferred to their employees” (p. 174). I believe Freeman would applaud the employee management at Warby Parker. Online, the business lists ways and manners in which they are helping their employees flourish. All of this involvement is great to generate goodwill, as Milton Freedman would stress, their involvement outside of profit generating activities stress the firm’s societal concerns.
Milton Freedman would most likely be critical of Warby Parker for addressing societal concerns that they are not necessary qualified to change. But the organization is not publicly owned, so he may argue that if the owners’ preferences are being adhered to, then let the firm do as it is.