Earlier this week, BSR asked the New York Times to correct inaccurate and misleading information in the story that ran on January 26, 2012 entitled “In China, the Human Costs That Are Built Into an iPad.” Here we present our letter to the editor that we submitted following publication of the article, as well as the main points we made to the New York Times in a letter sent on January 17, prior to publication. While some changes were made to the story, we believe that several important inaccuracies and misleading information remained in the story that was published on January 26.

Dear Editors,

I am writing in response to The New York Times article “In China, the Human Costs That Are Built Into an iPad,” published on January 26  by Charles Duhigg and David Barboza.

This article shines a light on important supply chain issues that are a crucial part of the global economy—one of the sustainability challenges BSR has worked on with business and other stakeholders for 20 years. Unfortunately, the article mistakenly attributes several quotes to an unnamed “BSR consultant,” presenting a false impression that those views should be associated with BSR.

While the story focuses on Apple, the question of conditions in global supply chains is of immense importance to all companies, in all sectors. There is no doubt that, while more and more companies are committed to ensuring good working conditions in their supply chains, additional steps should be taken. The key to progress is a combination of renewed commitments by the private sector, better enforcement of laws by governments, collaboration between businesses and NGOs, and worker empowerment. Global companies who are active in this space know that long-term, sustainable change takes time and requires many players working together.

This goes to the heart of our work at BSR. We remain intensely committed to helping global companies work effectively with government, consumers, workers, and civil society to create a more sustainable future.

Aron Cramer
President and CEO, BSR

Summary of BSR’s pre-publication letter to the New York Times on January 17, 2012.

The following is a summary of the main points we made to the New York Times on January 17, in response to information about the story that we were provided prior to publication.

There are several areas where the text you provided us is inaccurate and therefore presents an inaccurate account of events you aim to describe.

BSR does not believe that Apple has consistently disregarded its advice.

  1. It is untrue that Apple has consistently disregarded advice that BSR has provided about problems related to working conditions in its supply chain.
  2. The account of the pilot project in south China omits and obscures key facts. Despite the publication of a report that has been in the public domain for several years, there are errors in how you present the project conducted under the auspices of the World Bank, BSR, and three other sponsors.
  3. Your attribution of several opinions about Apple to BSR misstates the views of the organization. In several places, you attribute certain opinions about Apple to an unnamed “BSR consultant,” despite the fact that this consultant is unnamed, and are not affiliated with BSR. Associating these views with BSR is a serious misrepresentation, and should be changed.

The narrative you present is an inaccurate picture of the work we have done with Apple, of the role Apple played in the worker hotline project, and of BSR’s views of Apple.