We've written many times before about the working conditions at Foxconn and other Chinese plants at which nearly all of the electronics used for gaming are manufactured. The short version is, its not great. Factory workers manage extraordinary hours for very little pay, living in cramped conditions. Following a spate of suicides in 2010 and 2011, a threatened mass suicide action this January at a factory where Xbox 360 units are built drew international attention.
Apple has come under the loudest, most repeated scrutiny, with games like Molleindustria's Phone Story drawing attention to the issue. However, Microsoft, Sony, and a wide array of PC and Android device companies use the same or very similar factories.
So what's a socially responsible consumer to do? Apple this year began to allow outside auditors into factories in their supply chain, after external pressure. BuzzFeed asked a number of other large companies if they would consider doing the same.
The reporter received no response whatsoever from Sony, Asus, or Samsung. Toshiba gave a response of, essentially, "no response." Hewlett-Packard and HTC both gave unspecific answers, indicating that they were aware that standards were an issue but promising nothing.
The only company to issue a detailed response to BuzzFeed's inquiry was Microsoft, and their response was, essentially, "no":
If our strict standards are not met, suppliers risk termination of their contract. Our list of suppliers and the results of supplier audits are currently considered confidential business information.
Microsoft currently works with the Fair Labor Association on a project basis, including conducting worker surveys and factory specific capability building projects. As we presently have a robust auditing program in place, a deeper engagement with the organization has not been considered by Microsoft.
(Top photo: Shutterstock)