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Ethics in business is about maintaining an accountable and quality work standard to make sure a positive image is being kept within society differentiating between the correct and wrong and being completely sophisticated of the government laws as well as abiding by them. disregarding ethics has serious repercussions on the business financially and socially which can ultimately damage the companies reputation and all the key stakeholders involved with the company..
Before we analyse the ethical issues with Foxconn’s operations, we must first understand what do we mean by the word “ethics” as well as what type of ethics are we talking about in relation to the companies ethical issues. Ethics is about principles or rules determining the right from the wrong, beliefs about how people “should” behave in society as well as business.(ACCG100,wk2,lecture) .The two types of ethics relevant to Foxconn’s ethical issues are teleological/consequential ethics and deontological/non-consequential ethics. Teleological ethics is about the consequences of an action from determining what is right from wrong and how you get the result is less important than the outcome itself. Deontological ethics focuses on consequences are not important at all, instead the intention to do the right is more important than the final result (ACCG100,wk2,lecture) .
Since the 1990s, the anti-sweatshop movement began gaining coverage in the western mainstream media (Greenberg and Knight, 2004; Ross, 1997, 2008). transnational corporations (TNCs) have used 3rd world countries such as China implementing to poor labor conditions. unfair treatment, and unsafe working environments.
Founded in 1974, Foxconn Technology Group has become one of the worlds largest technology manufacturing group and a growing technological solutions provider.Foxconn established its first manufacturing plant in Shenzhen, China in 1998 and now the corporation is operating with 20 plants and employs more than 800,000 workers in China. The Shenzhen plant in GuangDong Province with total workers of 400,000 is the largest plant for Foxconn in China (Chan, 2010).
Foxconn has used its expertise in technology as an advantage to create new emerging technologies in the global market. By doing so, Foxconn has been able to grow exponentially in size focus more on its productions of cloud computing and development of new phones, which has allowed the company to achieve successful business revenue. For example Just in 2018, Foxconn has achieved $ 5.2 trillion in revenue, and received a various amount of international awards and recognition”(Foxconn.com, 2019)
However, in this case study, we will analyse that as the business grows and achieves such significant revenue, so does its ethical issues regarding its stakeholders involved with the company and how the companies social image has been affected.In this case Apple Inc has used Foxconn technologies to manufacture their iphones, and since the world has seen a number of unethical issues regarding Foxconn’s production of Apple iphones and its other technologies.
“Early on the morning of 16 July 2009, a young Chinese workers in the Guangdong province leapt to his death from the 12th floor of his apartment building. The man, 25-year-old Sun Danyong, had been implicated three days earlier in the disappearance of an iPhone prototype from a Foxconn Technology Group building where he worked. Thirteen more Foxconn workers committed suicide in various manners over the next 13 months”(Guo,Hsu,Holton,Jeong,2012). This has been deemed highly unethical and a breach of basic human rights by the international community on Foxconn’s actions , leading to such a horrific tragedies taking place in the workplace.
As a result of these tragedies taking place in Foxconn’s company, Chinese labor activists protested at Foxconn’s Hong Kong headquarters, and the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) sent a letter to Steve Jobs, co-founder and chief executive officer of Apple At the time, urging Apple to address the Foxconn suicides as the company is clearly breaching basic ethical principles resulting to such tragic events(USAS, 2010). However In response, it is clear that Foxconn representatives and Steve Jobs clearly think that having ethical pricplese and enforcing a sustainable corporate social responsibilty is not important to them as they have stated that Foxconn is ‘not a sweatshop’ and and comparing ‘Foxconn’s suicide rate is well below the China average’ (ChinaNews, 2010; Viticci, 2010). Further, Foxconn made a series of efforts to address the rash of suicides, offering employees multiple pay raises, psychological assistance, no-suicide contracts, worker rallies, and by placing safety nets around buildings where Foxconn employees live and work (Culpan, 2010; McEntegart, 2010).
In my opinion placing safety nets around the buildings where Foxconn employees work and live as well as offering “no-suicide contracts” is highly unethical and if anything worsens the situation creating a negative social impact on the business. The business could have a positive impact on dealing with its ethical issues if they take measures like removing safety nets and instead putting more focus on improving the working conditions like increasing wages and creating a more enjoyable work environment will prevent other workers from tragically taking their lives as well as improving the company’s reputation.
Ethics in business is about maintaining an accountable and quality work standard to make sure a positive image is being kept within society differentiating between the correct and wrong. However, in this case, it has come to my realisation that ethics in business isn’t just about having ethical codes of conduct in the workplace but more so implementing the correct ethical codes of conduct .
This is the case due to Foxconn’s ways of carrying out business operations, where their expansion of their technological growth in manufacturing iphones for Apple. Their goal has been to expand business operations and grab a larger market share, but they are doing it in an unethical way. So much so that their employees unfortunately are taking their lives because of poor working conditions due to poor ethical conduct by the employers. However, by actually following ethical codes of conduct and having a positive work environment where employees feel safe and enjoy their workspace, Foxconn will be able to maintain a positive image within society and improve their reputation in the future.
- Huang, K. (2019). Hon Hai/Foxconn Technology Group. [online] Foxconn.com. Available at: https://www.foxconn.com/en/GroupProfile.html.
- Ling, K.C., Kee, H.W. and Kueng, K.C., 2011. The challenges of corporate social responsibility practice: A case study of Taiwanese investment in China. Journal for the Advancement of Science & Arts, 22(1), pp.1-23.
- Guo, L., Hsu, S.H., Holton, A. and Jeong, S.H., 2012. A case study of the Foxconn suicides: An international perspective to framing the sweatshop issue. International Communication Gazette, 74(5), pp.484-503.
- Chan, J. and Pun, N., 2010. Suicide as protest for the new generation of Chinese migrant workers: Foxconn, global capital, and the state. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 37(2), pp.1-50.
- Merchant, B. (2019). Life and death in Apple’s forbidden city. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/18/foxconn-life-death-forbidden-city-longhua-suicide-apple-iphone-brian-merchant-one-device-extract [Accessed 10 Sep. 2019].
- ACCG100 lecture Week 2, Ethics, Session 2, 2019.
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