Apple's US manufacturing plans called a "publicity stunt"

Apple PCs

Company criticised over efforts to improve supply chain image

Apple has announced plans to move some of its manufacturing to the US, but has immediately come under fire for what critics call a "publicity stunt".

Apple yesterday told NBC News that one of its existing lines of Macs would be exclusively made in the US, reversing the current trend of using cheaper labour in China and other countries.

It's a move that will be welcomed by many in the US for creating new jobs, but according to corporate responsibility group SumOfUs, the company's plans are nothing more than a gimmick.

"Apple has a track record of announcing changes in its supply chain as PR stunts," Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the group's executive director said. "For years, Apple’s been making and breaking promises when it comes to ethical sourcing and how it treats its workers."

Apple is talking about moving a tenth of 1% of their global production costs. That’s not at the level of a fundamental business model shift

"Moving part of its supply chain back to the US is not going to change the fact that its business model rests on the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers in sweatshop-like conditions."

The complaints largely cover old ground, which Apple has tried to address with moves such as joining the Fair Labor Association. The paid membership association was critical of factory conditions after an audit earlier this year, and Apple has said it will improve conditions.

But according to SumOfUs, the move to take some manufacturing back to the US is a drop in the ocean that is timed to enhance the company's reputation ahead of Christmas.

"Apple has spent $650 million just on advertising for the iPhone alone since it launched. They’re talking about spending less than 20% of that on this shift," Stinebrickner-Kauffman said.

"Apple is talking about moving a tenth of 1% of its global production costs. That’s not at the level of a fundamental business model shift, [it's] a small token offering to appease consumers here in the US."

Apple has yet to reply with request for comment.

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