Editor's Note: Foxconn Not of Apple's Eye

July 15, 2014

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Foxconn, Apple's longtime contract manufacturer, will look to avail itself after the iPhone and iPad maker criticized its manufacturing partners' sustainability performance. The electronics OEM is building a huge green manufacturing campus in China, a sign of eco-efficiency importance in evolving buyer-supplier relationships.

Last week, Apple released its 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report, and it said, matter-of-factly, its supplier sustainability needs to improve. While Apple didn’t name names, it wasn’t hard to figure out who was being criticized.

In a blog post, Apple wrote, “Carbon emissions from our manufacturing partners remain the largest portion of our carbon footprint, an area we’re committed to addressing,” basically calling out Foxconn, its iPhone and iPad OEM. Apple, which naturally faces intense public pressures, seemed to suggest that it could have shrunk its carbon footprint further than 3 percent in 2013 (its first year-over-year improvement) with some supply partner help. So it's no surprise the often-criticized Foxconn is trying to respond by building a cutting-edge green manufacturing campus that intends to slash the energy and eco-cost of making smartphones and other electronics.

Apple and Foxconn deal on an elite scale, but it's a poignant example of evolving buyer-supplier relationships that include sustainability for all manufacturers. Foxconn has been Apple’s contract manufacturer for years, but to paraphrase Directworks’ Michael Cross in his column this week, the times they are a-changin'. More proof: Another iconic brand, Harley-Davidson, is building an electric motorcycle. Buyers no longer just consider purchase history in supplier decisions; if they don't like your sustainability commitment, they just might look elsewhere. William Ng, Editor-in-Chief, wng@thomasnet.com.

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