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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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Case Study: Apple Inc. (China) - Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network
The electronics industry is one of the largest sectors in the global economy and some experts estimate that the sector employs more workers and create more revenue than any other industry in the world. The US consumer electronics industry alone is worth more than $211 billion, and technology and electronics companies top the list of Forbes’ ranking of the world’s most valuable brands. It is an industry that is both immensely profitable and harshly exploitative, and nowhere is this more evident than in the supply chain of Apple Inc. In 2017, the company was worth an estimated $170 billion, making it the world’s most valuable brand.
Foxconn, one of the Apple’s largest suppliers, installed nets after a spate of suicides at its factories in China. Credit: Jason Lee, Reuters.
Despite the vast sums of money at the top of Apple’s supply chain, the workers that make its products face a myriad of abuses: poverty wages, excessive and unpaid overtime well in excess of legal limits, long-term exposure to toxic chemicals without proper protective equipment, unsafe work environments including blocked and locked exits, intense psychological pressure, and the use of forced student labor. The long hours, extremely low pay, and high-pressure work environment led to a spate of suicides, beginning in 2010, by workers at Foxconn, one of Apple’s most important suppliers. In the span of a year, there were at least 18 attempted suicides, resulting in at least 14 deaths. (Foxconn’s shockingly cruel solution to this problem was to install nets around its buildings to prevent workers from jumping, demonstrating just how little the manufacturer and its customers cared about the conditions that workers faced). Between 2010 and 2012, another six workers were killed in explosions at iPad factories. According to reporting by the New York Times, Apple had been warned about the dangerous conditions inside at least one of the factories, but did nothing to prevent the deadly blast.
Amidst mounting pressure from consumers to address the problems in its supply chain, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a multi stakeholder initiative (MSI) that was originally founded to monitor conditions in the apparel industry but that has since expanded to other sectors, including footwear, sporting goods and agriculture. Although the FLA describes itself as an independent monitoring body, member companies play a significant role in the organization’s governance and its funding. As a result, the FLA has an abysmal track record when it comes to improving conditions in the supply chain of its member companies and Apple was no exception. Mere days after beginning its inspection of Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn, the president of the FLA declared that the “facilities are first-class” and “Foxconn is really not a sweatshop.” Recall that Foxconn is the same supplier in which more than a dozen workers committed suicide just two years earlier, and where three workers had been killed in a factory explosion the prior year.
Six weeks after Apple announced that the FLA would be investigating its supply chain, the FLA published a report detailing a number of egregious abuses, many of which were also violations of Chinese law. It’s worth noting here that virtually all of these findings had previously been reported by independent investigators that Apple had simply chosen to ignore. Although Apple, Foxconn and the FLA publicly committed to fixing the violations, outside assessments showed little improvement. An independent evaluation of the FLA’s own reporting showed the following:
- Apple and its suppliers failed to implement changes to workers’ pay, including compensation for unpaid overtime and adoption of a wage that would cover workers’ basic needs. During the same time period, Apple reported earning nearly $50 billion in profits;
- Despite promises to the contrary, workers in Apple’s supply chain in China continued to work overtime hours in violation of legal limits;
- The promise to “establish a genuine voice for workers” was never fulfilled;
- Although Apple promised that “the FLA’s assessment will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled,” the FLA’s reporting covered less than 20% of workers in Apple’s supply chain; and
- Outside data demonstrated that serious labor rights abuses were continuing throughout the company’s supply chain.
It should come as no surprise that workers benefitted very little from Apple’s participation in the FLA. As is frequently the case with a brand’s decision to join an MSI, Apple approached the FLA not out of a genuine concern for the workers’ in its supply chain (Apple had known about egregious abuses at its factories for years), but out of a desire to repair the damage being done to its brand, the most valuable in the world. In exchange for its less-than-critical reporting, the FLA received a sizable fee. Unfortunately, this quid-pro-quo arrangement is all too common in the world of MSI’s, where, absent serious and meaningful changes to structure, governance, enforcement and funding, respect for workers’ rights will always be an afterthought instead of a reality.
In recent years, public attention has waned but workers continue to report serious human rights abuses in Apple’s supply chain. See, for example, the following reports: Apple still has miles to go despite the recent toxins ban , Apple making big profits but Chinese workers’ wages on the slide , and Blood and Sweat Behind the Screen of iPhones – Another Investigative Report on Apple’s Largest Display Screen Supplier .
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Researching the Foxconn Scandal Case Study
Foxconn is a Chinese manufacturing company leading in producing electronic products worldwide. It makes these items for leading brands in the manufacturing industry, such as Apple. However, there was a lot of heat in the partnership between Apple and Foxconn due to the working conditions existing in Foxconn. Apple Inc. has become an iconic and admirable company, even for famous Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The company, founded in 1996, has been undergoing fast growth in revenue with an increase in its valuation through the years.
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Characteristics of Apple Culture that Led to the Foxconn Scandal in 2012
Based on the case study, the Foxconn scandal in 2012 contributed majorly to the poor working condition that employees of Foxconn were going through in the company. The manager of the firm promised a better working environment for the staff members, but it failed to deliver (“Case study,” 2014). The facilities consisted of a large group of employees who, despite their effort and long hours of work, faced significant mistreatment, including standing during work hours (Pun et al., 2019). Similarly, the employees in the Foxconn Company experienced a number of suicide cases from their colleagues who suffered mental problems due to the working condition and pressure from the management. Even though the firm had better facilities, such as cinemas and a swimming pool, workers found it challenging to bear the mistreatment they received from their supervisors (Yang, 2021). Based on the case study, the report by universities in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan revealed that over 13 people died of suicide. The aspect was enhanced by the negligence of the firm to increase wages and implement mental health services.
In addition, the public radio broadcast and the podcast exposed the conditions which the workers were facing in the Foxconn Company. The viral downloads attained over 800,000 views which gave the public, including suppliers of the firm, insight into how the business organization was treating its employees (He et al., 2019). The exposure by Mike Daisey made the organization lose a significant number of consumers which made it lose the market.
Apple’s Stakeholders and how they are impacted by Supply Chain Issues
In the industry, Apple has significant stakeholders who are vulnerable to any form of misconduct linked to the company. They include consumers, employees, suppliers, and the government (Buckley, 2020). The mentioned stakeholders face poor reputations following the disclosure of the working relationship between Apple and Foxconn. Using Porter’s Five Forces framework, Apple is facing significant rivalry from its competitors, such as Microsoft and Samsung (“Case study,” 2014). Similarly, its consumers have strong buyer power since they can purchase the products from other providers. The Suppliers have the ability to offer their items to competitors in the market.
Recommendation and Conclusion
Analyzing Apple Inc. in terms of Porter’s Five Forces gives a clear insight into its external strengths leading to its success. Based on these five forces, the firm addresses the trade’s competitiveness and the customers’ bargaining power, which are among the most crucial external forces that affect the business (Chan et al., 2022). Moreover, this analysis indicates that the organization needs to focus on its strategic powers in these two factors to enhance its leadership capabilities in the industry. Porter’s model also provides insights into the intensity of competition and the ability of customers to bargain as the significant factor to consider in strengthening the firm’s strategic formulation. Other forces such as suppliers’ bargaining power, substitution, and new market entry are considerable weak forces affecting its operation.
Buckley, J. (2020). Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn and the lives of China’s workers . International Journal of Employment Relations , 60 (3).
Case study. (2014). Taking a bite out of Apple: Labor rights and the role of companies and consumers in a global supply chain.
Chan, J., Distelhorst, G., Kessler, D., Lee, J., Martin-Ortega, O., Pawlicki, P. & Selwyn, B. (2022). After the Foxconn suicides in China: A roundtable on labor, the state and civil society in global electronics. Critical Sociology , 48 (2), 211-233.
He, Q., Wang, N., Yang, Z., He, Z., & Jiang, B. (2019). Competitive collection under channel inconvenience in closed-loop supply chain . European Journal of Operational Research , 275 (1), 155-166.
Pun, N., Tse, T., & Ng, K. (2019). Challenging digital capitalism: SACOM’s campaigns against Apple and Foxconn as monopoly capital . Information, Communication & Society , 22 (9), 1253-1268.
Yang, Z. (2021). Book review: Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and the Lives of China’s Workers. Global Media and Communication, 17 (3), 385-387.
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IvyPanda. (2023, August 5). Researching the Foxconn Scandal. https://ivypanda.com/essays/researching-the-foxconn-scandal/
IvyPanda. (2023, August 5). Researching the Foxconn Scandal. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/researching-the-foxconn-scandal/
"Researching the Foxconn Scandal." IvyPanda , 5 Aug. 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/researching-the-foxconn-scandal/.
1. IvyPanda . "Researching the Foxconn Scandal." August 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/researching-the-foxconn-scandal/.
IvyPanda . "Researching the Foxconn Scandal." August 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/researching-the-foxconn-scandal/.
IvyPanda . 2023. "Researching the Foxconn Scandal." August 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/researching-the-foxconn-scandal/.
IvyPanda . (2023) 'Researching the Foxconn Scandal'. 5 August.
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Implementing Ethical ‘Code of Work Ethics’: A Case Study of Apple and Foxconn Supply Chain
Desty Maharani and Tirta Nugraha Mursitama *
International Relations Department, Faculty of Humanities, Bina Nusantara University, Jakarta, Indonesia 11480
* Corresponding author: [email protected]
This study aims to find out Foxconn supply companies in increasing Apple production through forced labor carried out by workers who work at Foxconn without any guarantee of welfare and health and safety empowerment for their workers as well as guarantees of survival and a decent basic salary. This case study is strengthened by using the Global Production Network (GPN) theory, which relates to production networks across economic boundaries to the actors involved. Meanwhile, the role of the workforce is also involved in the GPN because as a supplier of labor it is not only involved in the interests of the company, but is also involved in the state structure and global capital structure. There is also an approach used by researchers using a qualitative research approach. The data used by the researcher is secondary data obtained from journals, official websites, report data, and several articles that have been validated. The implication of this research is to improve workers’ rights in a company under the protection of the Fair Labor Association. Companies are required to apply a Code of Work Ethics to their workers to improve the welfare of workers and build a better corporate image.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2023
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