Truth be Told (or Not)


“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” – Mahatma Gandhi     

In the Un/true Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, the part I was most interested in was the truth and Apple’s response to allegations of poor working conditions in their factories.  Since week 1 this has been a key point of discussion and passion for many of us.  So, while the clip of Jobs responding to these questions was relevant; I found his answers unsatisfying (clip around minute 44).  He acknowledges that Apple knows about the problem and is “on top of it”.  But when asked what actions would be taken or people would be sent to deal with it, Jobs responds that they are trying to “understand it.”  And while comparing suicide rates to those of the US is valuable for context, I think it mainly works to take the burden of responsibility away from Apple.  So if Apple cannot be trusted to bring about reform for working conditions of employees, how will it happen?

Nutrition_label

     I’m a fan of the notion “The Buck Stops Here”, as made famous by Harry Truman.  If I want to see change then I must make it happen through my choices as a consumer.  However, for change to take place on a large scale, there needs to be more accurate and available information to consumers.  I think tech and manufacturing as a whole needs the equivalent of a “Nutrition Label”.  Imagine walking into a store and along with pricing there is a score on a scale out of 100 that measures the product/company on how well it treats its employees, cares for the environment and follows the law.  Of course it is impossible to make it rating system that accounts for all the possible stakeholder interests, but a number which gives a ballpark indication is significantly better than nothing.  The hope is that informed consumers will care and therefore shop from companies that do the right thing.

Any thoughts on this or other types of information that would help to bring about change through influencing consumer purchasing patterns?

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6 responses to “Truth be Told (or Not)

  1. I never thought of putting a “Nutritional Facts” type label on manufactured goods…that’s a really interesting idea that could definitely be beneficial to consumers in terms of education. While most people probably feel that they can’t make a difference as an individual (which I disagree with), providing detailed information can help inform every customer about their purchases.

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  2. I already railed about this, but “understanding the problem” is a weak answer. Unless a CEO says “understand it so we will work diligently to change the problems,” he is committing to NOTHING.

    When you are being fired, your boss can say “I understand this is going to devastate you financially and psychically.” Well, thanks. WGAF?

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  3. Truman was the president. I’d trade the buck stops here for 100 CEOs versus 1,000,000 consumers in terms of impact. It is a peculiarly sefl-defeating and consumerist response we have to think “well, if I just made better purchasing choices.”

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    • I agree change from the top would much more effective, but maybe I’m too skeptical to think that 100 buck stop here CEO’s exist or will be promoted to that level. Could you clarify what you mean by self-defeating?

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