Apple: Nobody is doing more to improve working conditions
Tim Cook meets critics head-on, points to China and Brazil as key growth areas
Apple CEO Tim Cook claims that no tech company is doing more to ensure the welfare of its supply chain workers.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology Conference, Cook restated the company's commitment to creating a "fair and safe work environment" in the factories operated by manufacturing partners like Foxconn.
"Where they can earn competitive wages and they can voice their concerns freely. Apple's suppliers must live up to this to do business with Apple," he said.
Cook detailed Apple's education initiatives, which aims to teach workers about their rights. More than 60,000 employees from Apple's supply chain have attended these free classes - a feat that Cook described as "pretty amazing."
"If you take all these employees and move them to one location, it would be larger than Arizona State -- which is the largest college in the United States. This is a powerful stepping stone for workers looking to enhance their careers and their lives."
"No one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple. We are constantly auditing facilities going deep into the supply chain, looking for problems, finding problems and fixing problems."
I am so incredibly proud of the work that our teams are doing in this area. They are truly a model for the industry
Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
"We report everything because we believe transparency is so very important in this area. I am so incredibly proud of the work that our teams are doing in this area. They focus on the most difficult problems and they stay with them until they fix them. They are truly a model for the industry."
Cook said that hiring underage labour will result in immediate dismissal, and that Apple is increasing its efforts to address the "consistent violations" of its policy against working weeks of more than 60 hours. "We have begun to manage working hour at a very micro basis," he said.
The Fair Labour Association is currently auditing Apple's "final assembly vendors," which Cook described as, "the biggest audit in manufacturing in history."
While poor working conditions at manufacturers like Foxconn have been widely reported, a New York Times investigation published last month accused Apple of looking the other way while problems persisted.
Elsewhere in his presentation, Cook pointed towards China and Brazil as the next major growth areas for Apple products, particularly the iPhone. Apple sold 37 million iPhones during the last quarter, but Cook baulked at the suggestion that opportunities for growth are running out.
"There's 3 out of 4 people buying something else; 9 out of 10 phone buyers are buying something else," he said.
"The smartphone market is projected to be 1 billion units in 2015, 3 years from now. 25 per cent of that is projected to come from China and Brazil... Obviously those are very critical markets, but there are others as well."
Cook also addressed the belief that the tablet market will soon overtake the PC. Apple believed that to be true from the first day it shipped the iPad, and Cook claimed, "I feel that stronger today than I did then."
"As I look out and I see all of these incredible usages for it, I see the incredible rate and pace of innovation, and the developers -- If we had a meeting at this hotel, and we invited everyone doing cool stuff on PC, we wouldn't have anyone here," he said.
"If you invited everyone working on iOS or on that other operating system, you wouldn't be able to fit everyone. That's where the innovation is."