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Why I'm Not Buying Apple

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This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolio series.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is an amazing company that I'd love to include in my Rising Star portfolio. But I can't. I think that despite Apple's incredibly positive attributes, its corporate social responsibility falls very short in many ways.

Infatuating influences
Don't get me wrong; I greatly admire Apple's history of being way ahead of the curve in providing what consumers wanted (and later what they needed). Apple consistently paved new paths in technology and in the ways we consume content. For example, years ago it was unfathomable that you could carry your entire music collection around in your pocket. Thanks, Apple!

Apple has long been a champion of beautiful, sometimes downright amazing design. It brought color and life to an industry that was mired in green and amber screens; ugly, unintelligible DOS; and beige boxes. Apple made computing accessible and even appealing to everyone.

These factors have created a powerhouse generating stunning levels of growth. And as much as many investors love to complain about how Apple sits on a massive cash cushion, I believe Apple's cash is a beautiful thing in current difficult times.

Apple's also a popular purchase for my Rising Star colleagues. Eric Bleeker, Bryan White, and Jim Mueller have all purchased Apple for their Rising Star portfolios.

Beauty's only skin deep
However, my Rising Star portfolio focuses on socially responsible companies, and that's where Apple falls short. It's tempting to say it's enough that Apple has enriched our lives with wonderful products, but in my opinion, it's just not.

The lingering scandal involving high suicide rates at its supplier Foxconn's factories ruins Apple's chances for a guilt-free halo. (Recently, Apple banned an app that showed the related ugly side of electronics manufacturing from its App Store.)

Speaking of Foxconn, here's another issue: environmental impact. An environmental group recently reported that Apple's Chinese suppliers are indulging in "pollution and poisoning." These include Foxconn, which reportedly "is involved in serious pollution resulting from its metals surface processing."

Apple trails many other companies on environmental disclosure, too. It declined to participate in the Carbon Disclosure Projects Global 500 survey. Although Apple joins Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) in disclosing greenhouse-gas emissions for data centers, Apple also relies on much-maligned coal for the majority of power in its North Carolina data center.

In fact, Apple's deal with Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK  ) to run its data centers on a combination of coal and nuclear power led Greenpeace to name Apple the "least green" tech company earlier this year. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , on the other hand, is making great strides in this area; Greenpeace lauded Google and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) as tops in its clean tech index.

Beyond brains and beauty
One of Apple's special and rather mystifying superpowers is its ability to protect its brand from the "corporate bad guy" reputation. Consumers seem incredibly forgiving of Apple's shakier practices; regardless, Apple's management should work hard to improve corporate responsibility because it's the right thing to do. 

Being beautiful and smart are great, but they're not enough for my Rising Star portfolio. I'm on the lookout for companies that go out of their way to be good in many important ways as well. Given some of Apple's negative attributes in supplier and environmental practices, I'm leaving the iEmpire for other investors.

Alyce Lomax owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned her personal portfolio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Yahoo! Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Yahoo!, Google, Apple, and eBay. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (33) | Recommend This Article (31)

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  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 9:42 PM, FreeRange1 wrote:

    Oh please. Who cares what you think. You obviously have no clue what you are talking about and have no understanding of Apple's overseas operations, and much less about China and its culture and current conditions.

    The media fueled hype over the suicides at Foxconn is so tiresome, and so wrong. These are modern factories with over 400,000 employees. The reality is far different from the hype. While any loss of life is tragic, the reality is that these plants have a LOWER suicide rate than that in the US. And in fact lower than for high school students in the US. So do we condemn the US education system? These are mostly young adults from poor rural areas that are working hard to save money as well as send money home to support their families. Yes, they work long hours in a factory environment doing repetitive and most likely boring work. But they are also separated from their families and support groups which would be hard under any conditions. I've worked long hard hours in US steel mills and auto plants and can assure you that those jobs were no picnic either. In fact at the auto plant I worked 7 days a week 10 hours a day for 3 months, mandatory. I was thrilled to get those paychecks.

    And now you want to condemn Apple because they use local power sources at their new North Carolina data center? Hell, lets condemn all of North Carolina and all customers of Duke Energy while we are at it.

    The fact of the matter is that Apple is a very private company in terms of how they operate and what they are doing behind the scenes. In fact they have moved aggressively in making their products environmentally safe, and to assure that labor practices are improving in the factories that build their products. Because they aren't tooting their own horn and putting out press releases regarding it doesn't mean they aren't working aggressively toward improvement. And it is irresponsible for you to just assume otherwise.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 9:45 PM, HawaiiHaze wrote:

    Seriously, people have got to get over the Foxconn suicide statistics. Suicide happens everywhere, and in fact the rate of suicide among the general population in China is *higher* than the rate among employees of Foxconn. Based on this indisputable fact, one could easily assert (and probably be right) that the quality of life for Foxconn employees is actually better than that of the average Chinese, and thus Foxconn (and Apple by association) is actually proving to be a socially responsible company in China *because* of the lower suicide rates.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 9:54 PM, StateCollegeGuy wrote:

    The hippies hate this company, a sure sign that this is the pinnacle of capitalistic efficiency.

    I have said this before and say it again, keep the Motley Fool free of corporate activists. People make money out of companies and industries, not hippies at Greenpeace.

    Sure, the pressure at FoxConn may have caused a high suicide rate .... but what if FoxConn wasn't there ? Apparently, Greenpeace and the author would not mind people starving to death as long as the water is clean and the "spring is silent".

    I have seen many unflattering articles on Steve Jobs at Motley Fool because he does not favor dividends and parks in the handicap space of HIS OWN DAMN COMPANY.

    Hear that noise ? That's my truck backing up to load up Apple stock.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 9:55 PM, MurphyMacdotCom wrote:

    You picked Apple for this article because they're one of a very few tech companies mainstream people might be interested to read about.

    Greenpeace does the same thing. No surprise.

    Would have been better if you told us about all the other companies that Foxconn produces products for.

    Dell and HP and the others - are they offering cash to recycle their customer's computers? Maybe they are - I'm just asking because you're so well informed.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 10:26 PM, fstop923 wrote:

    More meaningless, misinformed prattle from Alyce. And, sad to say, fairly typical of the general quality of "insights" among the Fools.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 10:34 PM, mhonarvar wrote:

    Hp actually is offering cash to recycle old printers

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 10:44 PM, marv08 wrote:

    Yes, good idea. Remove everything from US companies and households that has been produced in sweat shops and/or following poor ecological standards. Great. You would be left with no electronics at all, and for the most part (unless you are truly rich) without any clothing, too.

    This whole "green energy" yaddah yaddah is complete nonsense. An economy has a total power consumption. The US needs coal to cover the energy need. If Apple, Google, or you buy it, makes no difference whatsoever. And finding politicians willing to announce new nuclear plants has not really become easier lately. Most politicians were so focused on oil, that they forgot to look into truly green energy (which nuclear power is not, you have tons of toxic and radiating waste, you kill rivers by pumping hot water into them, etc.) decades ago.

    But maybe that was Apple's fault as well.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:09 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    I'm not going to get into the silly diatribes of other commenters, but I honestly think Apple is doing pretty well, particularly on the environmental score:

    At the end of the day, those statistics on packaging reduction, energy use reduction per capita, etc., seem fairly powerful to me, as is the use of non-toxic and less-toxic components. Since 2005, the percentage weight of products sold seven years earlier that gets recycled is up from 6.1% to 66.4% in 2009.

    Please tell me you looked at that website before writting this article though.

    Now, are they building windfarms like Google? Not to my knowledge. But poorly-located windfarms in California are already killing thousands of threatened and endangered raptors per year (which nobody, particularly outside of California, seems to care about), so this doesn't bother me too much. Regarding windfarms, does it ring any alarm bells in your head that Texas is the earliest and biggest adopter? Windfarms are great, but I'm deeply worried about their impact on bird populations, and shocked that many environmentalists (particularly of the Post-Inconvenient Truth, utterly human-centric variety) are so blase about this.

    As to the suicides at Foxconn, I can't speak, but they do seem to be a statistically insignificant number, versus the number of employees, in comparison to most major factories. I'd venture to suggest, it's at least possible that as a percentage of total employees, a similar number of Whole Foods employees have offed themselves in the past few years. In any event, do we have the numbers? The suicides really do seem like something used by labor activists to trumpet bad conditions at Foxconn. Now, the conditions may really be bad (I'm not sure), but the number of suicides seems statistically low.

    Also, is there any evidence that the suppliers of Google's (you own Goog) new Chromebook are better? (Or is it just a less successful product that is therefore not worthy of supplier analysis?) Have you looked into that?

    Long Apple, Google, and Microsoft (plus some LEAPs), and perfectly content to be so.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:20 PM, peckerbeanslim wrote:

    Apple did not invent the mp3 or mp3 player they stole that ideal. They did not invent the touch screen or the micro computer. What is good about Apple is the marketing. Who at apple is going to steal and ideal and make believe it is Apples idea?

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:21 PM, jaticker wrote:

    If not for Apple and all of the other "bad guys", nobody would have a computer to read about your "Rising Star Portfolio".

    I think we'd all be better off if we couldn't read it.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:25 PM, bugnuts wrote:

    Yawn. Can't believe I wasted five minutes on this. Apple's not perfect. But with Al Gore on its board, do you really think it's as evil as you make it out to be?

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:32 PM, daveshouston wrote:

    Alyce --> What a clown! Hard to believe the Motley Fool would even allow this tripe to be published here.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:35 PM, ChurchyLaFemme wrote:

    Well, I'm not buying AAPL, either.

    I do have some regrets, though, mostly centering around not buying more of it back in the late 90's when the price was running in single digits (split adjusted, naturally).

    Oh well. It's still a 40+ bagger.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:35 PM, websterphreaky wrote:

    YOU BET ... "Apple was ahead of the curve.." CrApple under Stevie Godly was the FIRST US COMPUTER COMPANY to OUT-SOURCE ALL of it's manufacturing OFF-SHORE in 1979 with the Apple IIe to a Canadian contractor (turn ANY '79 -'80 Apple IIe around and look at the back "Made in Canada" and then the first Mac in Japan!

    ALL CrApple PowerBooks from the FIRST till 2000 were ENGINEERED and Made by Sony/IBM in their joint factory in Japan! Hyundai ENGINEERED and MADE the vaunted G3 iMac, and kept that contract with all iMacs through the last G5. Power Macs were made in Taiwan then China. ALL iBooks made in Taiwan, Singapore and China. ALL MacBooks and Pros MADE in Taiwan and China.

    CrApple MAKES NOTHING, since 1980! PERIOD.

    But CrApple IS the Great iNOvator of something .... EXPORTING AMERICAN MANUFACTURING JOBS .... OFF- SHORE!

    That, is your Great American Gadget Company!

    And we're STILL waiting to see if Greedy CrApple will EVER pay a cent of Stock Dividends out of their quarterly Obscene Profits!

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2011, at 11:46 PM, rlcato wrote:

    Success! Your personnal, 'linkbait' article is proving itself. That's all I needed to read today; some personal, rehashed, old-news just to get clicks. You've cheapened this site with 2-3 year-old articles. Lazy!

    This is a finance site not a soap box! Next time, try writing something that happened today, not ON this day 2008.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 12:15 AM, DeRycke wrote:

    Pollution? I am simply pleased, and attribute this to Apple's innovation, that our landfills are no longer dominated by dreadful plastic music CDs and cases.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 12:23 AM, stevec5792 wrote:

    Alyce, it is obviously your choice for not investing in AAPL for your reasons. I have a very small investment in them for my own reasons.

    What I don't get from reading the comments here is this: All the "facts" that commenters are "quoting" aren't based in FACTS. Where's the evidence to back up your "facts" FreeRange1?

    @StateCollegeGuy, Jobs and Woz ARE (were?) hippies! The Greenpeace movement was started by their peers, but those hippies are too old to care now. It's their kids carrying the message that nobody truly cares about now. Just ask Al Gore, if you can get into his mega-mansion. :)

    @peckerbeanslim, true but they are fantastic packagers and marketers. THAT is what sets them apart from their competitors. Look at Xerox technology from the late '70s/early '80s. Remarkable comparisons. It is debatable whether Apple "stole" it, though.

    @jaticker: You betcha! Apple didn't "invent" the personal computer no more than IBM did. Yet, these 2 companies put it out there in a reasonably affordable configuration for us all to use. Without these companies starting the "Information Age", you'd still be making your weekly trek to the US Post Office (or equivalent) to mail in your bills. ( may still do so just like I do.)

    As a consumer, I am as anti-Apple as it gets. BUT, as an investor, I say GO APPLE! Let the "innovations" keep your stock price high!

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 1:00 AM, skippywonder wrote:

    Socially responsible is in the eye of the beholder. Ms. Lomax rates Pepsi a buy. I can not think of a less socially responsible company that one that makes its fortune of off sugar water and Freetos. They may not be on Greenpeace's hit list, but they are peddling food that basically kills people.

    It's a free country, and they have every right to do that. I'm just saying it is very hard to rank some companies as "evil" and others as "good". They're all just shades of grey. Socially responsible? Yeah, sure.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 1:37 AM, alec37 wrote:

    B4 you go jumping down the writer's throat, let's all remember Apple's stock will take a severe nose dive once dear Steve Jobs' departs from this world. Green of not, don't look for Al Gore on the board as a panacea for what Apple can or could achieve. Who the hell knows. Jobs holds the company so close to his chest, or diseased liver, Apple may very well be greener than we think. Besides.. Investing.. deep down.. is for selfish purposes.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 2:44 AM, 40milesperhour wrote:

    Keep investing in Apple see what happens this company has reached its peak and for the future is going no where. There are practices called fair trade and sustainable farming obviously something not one of u idiots care anything about. When wasteful companies find there margins shrink they go nowhere but down.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 7:59 AM, sept2749 wrote:

    Tobacco, booze and drugs are money makers. I love 'em! Keep giving those juicy dividends. I'm an investor not a social worker.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 12:27 PM, LuxoM3 wrote:

    Alyce - agreed! And to note...

    What's a company doing with a $75B warchest?

    a. paying dividends to investors

    b. giving to charities

    c. none of the above

    The BIG companies are constantly being criticized about corporate greed, what I guess being "IN" insulates one from criticism...

    For now.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2011, at 8:49 PM, FoolishNerd wrote:

    One of the challenges in becoming a successful investor is in managing your emotions. This is most critical during market swings or when a stock “falls out of favor”. It is also important for stock selection. Whether you “like” a product, company, CEO, etc. has little to do with their income producing ability. What do the numbers tell you? You need to invest based on measurable FACTS. Every thing else might as well be Astrology.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2011, at 11:28 AM, louishemmings wrote:

    Ok - all you Apple devotees. read this & then try & be heartless consumers with no conscience....

    Workers typically live in factory dorms with roommates who work different shifts and speak different dialects of Chinese. Differences in schedule and language prevent workers from forming close relationships—a boon for production, since isolation makes for more focused workers.

    Talking and stretching are forbidden on the assembly line, and clocking in five minutes late may result in the loss of half a day’s wages. Bathroom use is limited to 10 minutes, which is strictly enforced by an electronic key card.

    Hong Kong’s SACOM recently discovered that workers have been forced to write public “confession letters,” a punishment reminiscent of Maoist China. Mistakes on the assembly line, or even a general accusation of inefficiency, are enough to merit a confession letter.

    part of a longer article see link:

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2011, at 1:18 PM, mcandac wrote:

    Alyce - As with any company, Apple is responsible to three groups (1) its stockholders, (2) its customers, (3) its employees. AND ONLY TO THOSE THREE GROUPS. THey have NO responsibility to comply with your social engineering agenda. In fact, they could be sued if they did.

    They are LEGALLY required to do whatever is necessary to lower their costs. Otherwise, they fail to meet their fiduciary obligations and could be sued by the stockholders.

    This means they SHOULD be doing all those things that you complain about. Don't like it? Try to change the law. As long as they're in compliance, you have NO RIGHT to complain about their nonexistant "social responsibilities".

    So you should learn a little about economics and the law before you start waving your banners.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2011, at 1:55 PM, ButterflyX wrote:

    Thank you Alice for putting a human face on an investment option.

    However the sadness of this article is that its two years delayed.

    The problem behind this story is that Apple is the public face and Foxconn is the employer of all the misery. Apple outsources to an EMS ( Electronic Manufacturing Services ) provider.

    Where does the responsibility lay. With Taiwanese Foxi that squeezes the juice from its employees or Apple that squeezes the margin down for Foxi and inflates in consumer price by skilful marketing?

    In the EMS business Foxconn probably has one of the lowest scores for human respectability. There are several advantages for Apple to outsource to Foxi. The main however being that its factory delivery price is cheap. And keeping it cheap depends on a number of factors. One of which is holding down ( or back) labour cost with draconian military styled measures. Put bluntly is became evident in 2009 that Foxi had a derogatory approach towards management of human decency in its Chinese factories. All that was observable to Apple who on their own account concede that they regularly audit their suppliers plants for conformance to codes of social responsibility.

    It is one thing to audit, it’s another to ensure that inconsistencies are quickly corrected. And when inconsistencies continue where do the sanctions begin? Foxconn continues to be Apples main EMS provider despite alternative EMS suppliers with better social responsibility records.


    There are those who believe that gruesome sweatshops are an inevitable stage of development from absolute poverty. In the UK during the late 18th and 19th century much the same took place during the so called industrial revolutions. People of African decent living in the USA, Brazil, the Caribbean and elsewhere may like to reflect on the slave trade in this context.

    Does all this mean that as a developed world progresses we should accept into our portfolios companies that turn the blind eye to our developed levels of human dignity.

    People who buy Apple stuff don’t know under what conditions the workers suffer (at Foxi ) neither do the Dell and HP customers. These companies make great products but think what 1$ extra on sales price would do to improve the living conditions of the people who make the stuff. ( that is 1$ fed directly back not marked up from the factory selling price ).

    Its all a question of enlightenment and thanks to courageous Alyce, one supposes supported by the Fools board, we have a first try here.

    Investment defiantly needs to be decent. Otherwise we would degenerate back to the slave trade.

    As a P.S. to the question who is responsible: Foxi or Apple consider the ration of factory selling price (Foxi) to consumer price (Apple) for whatever great Apple product you think of.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2011, at 2:24 PM, HeyPacketMan wrote:

    Apparently placing an environmental junk science alarmist on their Board of Directors who trys to stifle ongoing scientific debate and cover for academic malfeasance doesn't get it done for you. Maybe you can buy one share and crash their next stockholder's meeting chanting "Steve Jobs lied and factory workers died." Makes for good theatre.

    I bought in the $60's and sold a bit too early before the recent run-up. APPL is starting to feel like Cisco did in 2000.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2011, at 4:13 PM, rstraub46 wrote:

    It is surprising and shocking that a web service that claims to be rational in terms of assessment of stocks and markets promotes the credo of the ecological lobby. Ecological fundamentalism does not have much to do with rational thinking and scientific evidence - it is a belief. However, it is pointless to discuss this with the ecologists and climate alarmists because they "know" it all and they are here to convert you to their faith.While most of the ecological credo is hype and fiction, the economic impact is real. Mis-allocation of resources and crippling of innovation due to precautionary principle and technology hostile attitude will hit particularly hard in the coming years of evolving crisis. Those groups whose only value proposition it is to tell a everybody else what to do an to get funded by good-meaning but ill informed individuals seem to be more successful in winning over politicians (and even "rational" investment experts than serious enterprises who create jobs and value for their clients and do an immense service to modern economies and societies. Does this article really reflelct the space where The Motley Fool wants to be? Important to know before taking further investment advice....

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2011, at 5:36 PM, cowboy61 wrote:

    Forget about Apples being ecologically irresponsible. Steve Jobs is the Hitler of electronics. He will not allow Apple users to use any other product or media unless he profits from it. His selfishness may be good for profits and people who put him on a pedestal keep buying his products even though every time he comes out with a new version of his phone or pad, he already has the replacement designed. Wake up Apple geeks, he's stealing your money! He has raised a group of followers that will buy anything that he puts an i in front of. Granted he is a great innovator but his corporate greed makes him a bad corporate citizen. Thank goodness for google. My 1 1/2 year old Android phone is 4G, has an 8 megapixel camera and streams HD. These ancient features will soon grace the new iphone 5. Of course they could have been available on the last iphone 4 but then why do that when he can make you buy the new phone a year later. You geeks follow him blindly like sheep!

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2011, at 5:42 PM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    Now I know why there was blood my new Notebook.

  • Report this Comment On September 24, 2011, at 3:48 PM, decebalvs wrote:

    The amount of stupidity in some of these comments is appalling. I almost puked.

    Some people cannot see beyond the meaning of money. They are fully invested, and any negative comment, even one that can turn in their favor in the long run, becomes an attack to their own person.

    Economics and ecology are about the same f*ing thing: how to manage the f*ing resources for the best outcome. And no, the outcome IS NOT about how high the pile of money gets. The outcome is about how well people live.

  • Report this Comment On September 26, 2011, at 2:24 AM, WeKillOurWorld wrote:

    Geeks Overdosed and Weeping Souls


    The suicides at Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry) ARE STILL happening every few weeks. They are run like military reformist camps (poor benefits , mandatory fees, no overtime = meagre net salary)

    Foxconn China - Lady Apprentice Worker Slipped and fell to her death when drying her clothes (25/09/2011)

    PS: Without high-tech junk-toys and addictive internet-games, I will have learn to spend more time for my family.

  • Report this Comment On August 28, 2012, at 2:35 PM, jg777 wrote:

    Most people forgets that Apple used to be the all hippie and gay powered solution against the blue big brother (the rainbow apple, how can people forget that?).

    I am a technician and i keep receiving Apple computers with serious problems, being the most common the iTunes update locking disk data, external disk sudden death by HFS+ (which was never meant to be, and that's a real wrong and Apple should use all the money they have to destroy HFS+ and iTunes or fix-them) as a matter of fact most unrecoverable problems are about data corruption and filesystem locking, the disk hogging (well, that was easy to fix).

    Another issues keep coming are:

    Lost configuration settings, lost DMR keys and music meta-data(with loosing entire music collection), file duplication, etc.

    I know that people that use MAC are people that only use it for some kind of work, but because they can't work with other office computers they're used for Corel and Adobe (and Adobe users has the most annoying problems).

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