Supply chain risk and Apple back in the news as the river runs black

It's a bit of a downer for a Friday afternoon, but an article in the Times yesterday (behind the paywall unfortunately) caught our attention. Here's how it starts:

Beyond the brick cottages of Tongxin runs Lou Xia Bang, once the soul of the farming village and a river where, until the digital revolution, children swam and mothers washed rice. Today it flows black: a chemical mess heavy with the stench of China’s high-tech industry — the hidden companion of the world’s most famous electronics brands and a reason the world gets its gadgets on the cheap.

It described how a town  was being affected (allegedly) by chemical waste from local factories that, as well as turning the river black, has  caused a “phenomenal” increase in cancer rates in Tongxin (according to research by five Chinese non-governmental organisations).

The factories have grown up in the last few years and make circuit boards, touch screens and the casings of smartphones, laptops and tablet computers.

As usual in these cases, Apple was mentioned - although the evidence appears to be a little sketchy as to whether these factories are actually players in the Apple supply chain.

Here's the Times again:

Workers at the Kaedar factory, five metres from a kindergarten where children have complained of dizziness and nausea, have secretly confirmed that products had left the factory bearing the Apple trademark.

Apple now clearly act as a sort of proxy for all  "western business" in all these stories about corporate social responsibility. But whether or not they are involved, the story points out yet again the importance of managing supply chains, understanding your supply base and mitigating supply chain risk, whether that is reputational risk or any other type.

That's why supplier management, supplier life-cycle management, and supplier information management are amongst the hottest topics in procurement right now.  So if you haven't got round to downloading (free on registration) and reading two of our recent research papers, which both feature some of these topics, then perhaps this weekend would be a good time to do that!

Here they are.

Balancing internal and external service provision – key decisions for procurement professionals Today’s CPOs must balance internal & external resources to deliver procurement success – we explain why and how. We also look at Supplier Information Management as a case study of this principle

  Supplier Lifecycle Management: Reduce Risk, Improve Performance and Drive Supplier Value Why (and how) putting the supplier at the centre of your thinking and processes can bring significant benefits to the organisation.

And we will no doubt return to China, Apple and these issues again.

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