As TUAW has reported previously, Apple is working with the Fair Labor Association on a study of working conditions at supplier factories. The independent audits are attempting to determine areas where workers may be exposed to poor or dangerous working or living conditions so that changes can be made for the sake of the workers. Those audits have begun, but according to a Bloomberg article this morning, Apple's peers in the consumer electronics industry don't seem to be following suit.
The Bloomberg post notes that "companies including Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. rely on their own evaluations, based in part on guidelines from the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), which they say are sufficient to prevent abuses." However, "while the EICC sets standards for ethics, worker safety and labor practices, it doesn't require members to disclose findings and it lacks enforcement powers. The result is a disjointed system of self- imposed regulations that fail to hold companies accountable when abuses arise, according to labor advocates and technology executives."
Apple has been receiving a lot of attention from the press and worker's rights groups, who are targeting the company with petitions, protests, and threats of boycotts. It appears that most of the other players in the business are able to get away with equally bad (or worse) working and environmental conditions without any comment. As The Loop's Peter Cohen notes, "Where's the outrage from citizen's groups and environmental groups?"
The biggest target is always the easiest to hit, so hopefully these groups will begin to focus their attention on the other electronics firms now that they've managed to get Apple to keep an eye on suppliers.