Tim Cook: Apple Does More than Any Company To Improve Labor Conditions

Tim Cook led off his appearance at a Goldman Sachs conference today with a stirring defense of his company's efforts to curb unsafe and unfair labor conditions in its supply chain. According to Cook, Apple's not just good at keeping its suppliers in line; it's the best. But is "better" good enough?

Cook's comments came during a long rundown of the efforts Apple has made along these lines; educating workers, ensuring safe conditions, deterring underage labor. He's pretty proud of the company's record:

I would tell you that no one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple. We are constantly audition facilities, going deep into the supply chain, looking for problems, finding problems, and fixing problems. And we report everything, because we believe that transparency is so very important in this area.

And to be honest, that's very probably true, especially now that the company's going to be making monthly labor reports public. But it's not necessarily true because Apple's the most altruistic OEM in the land. It does, though, have the highest profile, and Foxconn—one of its most prominent suppliers—has had a seemingly disproportionate number of recent tragedies.

"We know that people have a very high expectation of Apple," said Cook. "We have an even higher expectation of ourselves." And that's basically the question: Does Apple lead because it took a step forward or because it was pushed into the limelight? And can it effect change not only for its own workers, but inspire other companies to follow suit?

We'll see. We'll hope.