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Apple urged to make iPhone 5 'ethically'

Human rights group SumOfUs urges consumers to sign its petition

A human rights group is urging Apple to ensure that the next-generation iPhone is manufactured 'ethically' in the wake of reports about working conditions in the company's supply chain. See also iPhone 5 release date, specs and rumour round-up.

SumOfUs is running a petition on its website to try and persuade the company to take a stand on working conditions exposed by two recent articles in the New York Times.

Though one workers' rights organisation has questioned the accuracy of some parts of the reports and Apple CEO Tim Cook is apparently furious with the nature of the articles, the group uses highly emotive language to make its point.

"Every day, tens of millions of people will swipe the screens of their iPhones to unlock them. On the other side of the world, a young girl is also swiping those screens. In fact, every day, during her 12+ hour shifts, six days a week, she repetitively swipes tens of thousands of them," the group says on its website.

"She spends those hours inhaling n-hexane, a potent neurotoxin used to clean iPhone glass, because it dries a few seconds faster than a safe alternative. After just a few years on the line, she will be fired because the neurological damage from the n-hexane and the repetitive stress injuries to her wrists and hands make her unable to continue performing up to standard."

Several commentators have pointed out that Apple isn't the only company to engage manufacturing partners such as Foxconn and Pegatron, where many incidents - such as explosions, poisonings and threats of mass suicide - that have led to working conditions being questioned have taken place.

However, Apple - and specifically the iPhone - is an easy target for campaigners. The company has recently announced record profits and the iPhone is the best-selling smartphone in the world, so it is understandable that SumOfUs has chosen this particular focus for its petition.

"Right now we have a huge opportunity as ethical consumers: The launch of the iPhone 5 later this year will be new Apple CEO Tim Cook's first big product rollout, and he can't afford for anything to go wrong including negative publicity around how Apple's suppliers treat their workers. That's why we're launching a campaign this week to get Apple to overhaul the way its suppliers treat their workers in time for the launch of the iPhone 5," the group says on its website.

"Can Apple do this? Absolutely. Apple is the richest company in the world, posting a profit margin for the last quarter of 42.4 percent. They're sitting on $100 billion in the bank."

Other commentators have called for a boycott of Apple products due to concerns over the working conditions in its manufacturing supply chain. But there also seems to be a degree of consumer apathy about the situation, with many seemingly unwilling to change their buying habits.

Apple has made several moves in recent months to address concerns over working conditions in its supply chain, issuing an annual Supplier Responsibility report that covers labour and human rights, worker health and safety, environmental impact, and ethics.

The most recent report found that there were "significantly fewer cases of underage labour" and that it had established new requirements for handling combustible dust throughout its supply chain after two explosions.


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