Ethical and social responsibilities are major issues faced by many organizations including both small and multinational businesses. The conducts and business practices of an organization are highly important because they determine the image and reputation of the company in the eyes of the public. The image of an organization in the limelight of the public is a great concern to almost all organizations irrespective of their size, success and competitiveness in the industry in which they operate.
A Brief Review of Apple Inc.
Apple Inc. is one of the most innovative and key players in the information technology (IT) and consumer electronics industries in the world. Apple Inc. was founded on April 1, 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. The headquarters of the company is located at Cupertino in California, United States of America. Apple Inc. specializes in the development, manufacture, production and sale of high-end consumer electronics, computer software and personal computers. The flagship products of Apple Inc. are the Mac computers, the iPod Media Player, the iPhone smartphones and the iPad tablet computer. Gilbert further asserts that Apple Inc. has narrowed its focus to consumer electronics since January 2007. According to Gilbert, Apple Inc. is the second largest information technology (IT) company in the world based on revenues after Samsung Electronics. It is also the third largest mobile phones manufacturer in the world after Samsung and Nokia. Between 2008 and 2012, Apple Inc. was ranked by the Fortune magazine as the most admired company in the world for four consecutive years. Apple Inc. also surpassed Coca-Cola to become the most valuable brand in the world by September 2013.
The Current Position of Apple Inc. with Regard to Ethical and Social Responsibilities
Apple Inc. is one of the few multinational companies that strongly believe in corporate ethics and social responsibility. The company states that it strongly believes that education should be sued by employers to empower and change the lives of their workers. It further asserts that its suppliers must treat their workers fairly and ethically at all times. It also emphasizes the need for organizations to provide workers with healthy and safe working conditions. Furthermore, Apple Inc. builds environmental responsibility through the production and sale of environmentally-friendly products. The production processes are tailored to improve environmental safety. Last but not least, the company ensures ethical and social responsibility by going deep into its supply chain and enforcing standards and resolving problems that may arise within the supply chains.
In my opinion, I would argue that Apple Inc. has been able to meet its corporate ethical and social responsibilities over the recent past. Although it has not been able to meet all the ethical and social responsibilities, just like any other company would face challenges in achieving ethical and social responsibility, I would assert that the company has attained most of its corporate ethical and social responsibilities. This can be evidenced by the numerous efforts that the company has put in attaining and maintaining high levels of ethical and social responsibility in the society. For example, the company had developed a comprehensive Supplier Responsibility Program that helps it in ensuring that the suppliers meet the minimum ethical and social responsibility requirements. In order to ensure that the operations and business activities of the company remain ethical and socially responsible, Apple Inc. enforces strict accountability in all its projects through the Direct Responsible Individual (DRI). With regards to the consumers, Apple Inc. shows ethical and social responsibility by ensuring that it delivers the quality it promises to consumers. This entails developing and manufacturing high quality products that meet the needs and preferences of the consumers effectively. It also services that are customer focused. For example, Apple Inc. has an “At-Home Apple Advisor” program that aims at providing support to its consumers at any time. The company also ensures that the products it manufacturers are safe for both the consumers and the environment. In April 2012, Apple Inc. stated that it is committed to green energy production in order to help save the environment, a move that was viewed as the company’s commitment to remain ethically and socially responsible. The green energy approach enabled the company to ensure that more than seventy-five percent of the energy its uses come from renewable sources. This has greatly helped in environmental protection and conversation. The company has also showed corporate social responsibilities by creating new jobs for people. According to Gilbert, Apple is one of the major employers in the information technology industry with a workforce of three thousand three hundred workers. Moreover, the company has shown social responsibility towards its workers by providing them with conducive working conditions and opportunities for professional growth and development. Apple Inc. is well known for attracting and developing the best talents the in the information technology industry. For example, the company has the Apple Fellows Program through which it provides workers with opportunities to grow and develop their skills and talents such as technical expertise and leadership abilities.
However, the company has been faced with challenges involving violations of labor practices by its suppliers in foreign countries, for example, the company admitted in 2011 that its suppliers in China are using child labor and that the situation has worsened over the recent past. Moreover, workers in factories that produce Apple’s products are also exposed to toxic substances such as n-hexane. Many of its suppliers in china have also been practicing employment discrimination against minority groups, withholding workers’ pay and offering poor working conditions in addition to oppressing the workers. These practices are against the ethical labor practices of Apple Inc. Apple has also been accused of evading tax responsibility by paying low taxes in foreign countries. This is an unethical and socially irresponsible practice because it goes against the legal legislation guiding business practices within the international context.
On the other hand, Apple has shown social responsibility by being involved in charitable causes in the society. For example, it is a key partner of the Product RED Campaign which aimed at preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. The company worked alongside other notable brand such as Nike, Girl, American Express and Converse to help attain the mission of the campaign. Moreover, Apple Inc. donated 2.5 million U.S. dollars to the America Red Cross to assist in the relief efforts to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in November 2012.
Despite its numerous successes in the information technology industry, as well as in the global business world, Apple Inc. has been faced with various ethical and social responsibility challenges that are likely to impact its growth and success in the future. Although the company’s success can be associated with its corporate culture which gives a deeper consideration for corporate social responsibility, Apple Inc. has been accused of being unethical and socially irresponsible in some of its business practices. For example, Apple Inc. has received a lot of criticism over the recent past for its contractors’ labor practices, as well as the company’s own environmental and business practices. It has also been argued that the original ethical and social responsibility culture of Apple has faded away as its executives go, especially following the resignation and death of its founder and chief executive officer Steve Jobs.
Impacts of the Publication of Ethics and Social Responsibilities Violations on Apple’s Reputation
The publications on ethics and social responsibilities violations made by Apple’s suppliers have damaged the reputation of the company in the public limelight. Many critics of the company including consumers today view Apple Inc. as a less socially responsible organization because of its inability to manage and control acts of unethical and social irresponsibility committed by its suppliers. However, supporters of Apple argue that although the company can advocate for ethical and social responsibility among its suppliers, it has little control of activities and operations of the suppliers, hence its efforts to minimize such acts of social irresponsibility by suppliers would not bear much fruit. An example of an incidence showing that Apple’s reputation within the international business environment has been damaged and has declines due to ethical and social responsibility violations by its suppliers is the decline in total sales of Apple’s product in China during the last quarter of 2013 following publications revealing unethical and socially irresponsible practices of one of its major suppliers in China, the Pegatron Group.
How Apple Ensures that Its Suppliers Adhere to Wage and Benefits Standards
Apple Inc. can ensure that its suppliers adhere to wage and benefits standards by enforcing universal standards and requirements that should be met by all its suppliers. This would involve developing minimum wage and benefits standards that should be adopted and implemented by all its suppliers. This would help in ensuring that the suppliers do not violate the rights of workers with regards to their remunerations or pay. Secondly, Apple Inc. can ensure that its suppliers adhere t the wage and benefits standards by ending business contracts with suppliers that do not follow and adhere to the standards. For example, if it finds that a supplier in china is underpaying its workers, Apple should terminate its supply contract and look for another supplier. As a consequence, the suppliers would be compelled to follow and adhere to the wage and benefits standards of the organization. In my view, the company should conduct periodic reviews and researches to establish whether all its suppliers adhere to the wage and benefits standards, and if any supplier is found not to adhere to the standards, appropriate disciplinary action is taken against it.
Willingness of Apple’s Customers to Pay More for Its Products if the Company Increases Selling Prices to Provide Better Wages and Benefits for Suppliers’ Workers
In my view, the customers of Apple Inc. would not be willing to pay more for the company’s products had it increased its selling prices in order to provide better wages and benefits for suppliers’ workers. This is because consumers perceived prices of products relative to the quality of the product and not other policies of the company. Thus, customers would be willing to pay higher prices for the products if the qualities and characteristics of the products are enhanced rather than to assist the organization in implementing or attaining its policies. For my part, the consumers would view proper remuneration of workers as a responsibility of the company that should be transferred directly to customers and be implemented by their company through its own strategies other than high pricing of products.
Apple’s Current Overall Marketing Strategy and Actions It May Take to Improve Its Competitive Advantage in the Global Marketplace
In my opinion, the current overall marketing strategy used by Apple Inc. is product positioning. Product positioning is a marketing strategy that involves the identification of a market problem or opportunity and the needs, tastes and expectations of consumers and developing products that would meet or exceed those consumer needs and wants. It involves developing appropriate marketing strategies that would enable an organization to explore and utilize opportunities or niches that exist within a particular market. Kotler and Armstrong define product position as the process of creating and maintain a distinct impression of a product among consumers. Product positioning involves influencing how the customers perceive or view the products or services of an organization. It is a marketing strategy intended to present the products and services of an organization in the best possible light towards the target customers. Apple Inc. also uses branding technique to gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
For my part, one of the actions that Apple Inc. can take in order to improve its competitive advantage in the global marketplace is to create a strong brand of its products. This would involve developing highly distinguished brands of products to the target customers. For my part, Apple would improve its global competitiveness through strong branding because it augurs well with product positioning and other marketing strategies such as advertising. An example of an organization that has successfully used branding is Nokia Corporation, which branded its mobile phones as the best and most affordable for middle-class and lower-class consumers. Secondly, Apple can deploy target marketing or marketing segmentation to improve its competitive advantage in the global marketplace. This would involve developing and producing products for a specific target audience, for instance, it would develop and manufacture high-end smartphones for the businesspersons. An example of a company that has successfully used target marketing or market segmentation is BMW, which targeted upper class customers by manufacturing luxury vehicles.
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