Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I couldn't articulate this thought better than Seth Godin did in his blog. I hope he doesn't mind I'm reposting it on mine. Thanks Seth Godin - we see the same problem in the present and have the same hope for the future.


Let's not race to the bottom.

We know that industrialists seek to squeeze every penny out of every market. We know that competitors want to drive their costs to zero so that they will be the obvious commodity choice. And we know that many that seek to unearth natural resources want all of it, fast and cheap and now.

We can eliminate rules protecting clean water or consumer safety. We can extort workers to show up and work harder for less, in order to underbid a competitor. We can take advantage of less sophisticated consumers and trick them into consuming items for short-term satisfaction and long-term pain. These might be painful outcomes, but they're an direct path to follow. We know how to do this.

In our connected world, commodity producers are under intense pressure. The price of anything that's made to a spec, or that responds to an RFP, is instantly known by all buyers. That means that there's an argument made by big corporations for each country to charge corporations the lowest possible tax rate, to loosen environmental regulations down to zero, and to eliminate employee protections. All so that a country's commodity producers can be the cheapest ones.

I know we can do that. There's always the opportunity to cut a corner, sacrifice lifestyle quality and suck it up as we race to grab a little more market share.

But the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.

You might make a few more bucks for now, but not for long and not with pride. Someone will always find a way to be cheaper or more brutal than you.

The race to the top makes more sense to me. The race to the top is focused on design and respect and dignity and guts and innovation and sustainability and yes, generosity when it might be easier to be selfish. It's also risky, filled with difficult technical and emotional hurdles, and requires patience and effort and insight. The race to the top is the long-term path with the desirable outcome.

Sign me up.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


The end of the article reads:

“You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards,” said a current Apple executive. 

“And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.” 

Enough said. Shame on Apple and everyone who turns a blind eye to these types of practices in pursuit of a toy. 
I'm reading the New York Times article about Apple and I'm just sick to my stomach. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

So much of what I read is familiar - although extreme. Have suppliers clamoring to work with you, take apart their financials so you know actual cost and then allow a minimum profit. It's the new American way... and we reward these companies with tax breaks. Maybe this time - because the story is about the iconic American company, Apple - the country will understand what is happening and what they are complicit in.

Yes, there is such a thing as too much profit if that profit comes from these types of practices. Here's a short blurb from the article. You have to read it for yourself.

"Apple typically asks suppliers to specify how much every part costs, how many workers are needed and the size of their salaries. Executives want to know every financial detail. Afterward, Apple calculates how much it will pay for a part. Most suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits. 

So suppliers often try to cut corners, replace expensive chemicals with less costly alternatives, or push their employees to work faster and longer, according to people at those companies. 

'The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,' said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. 'And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.'" 

We are a better country. We are a better people than this.