There are many questions getting asked around the Internet space. The question: "Can the iPad be "green" if it is manufactured in a sweatshop?" is a good question and there is some interesting discussion on this posting: http://ecolibris.blogspot.com/2010/06/can-ipad-be-green-if-it-is-manufactured.html
However, in my view, the question is only part of a bigger system question ... and the answer to important system questions are sometimes not quite so simple. I commented as follows:
Dear ColleaguesReform of the global economic system is needed ... and it is going to happen whether the bankers and politicians like it or not ... whether corporate stockholders or union members like it or not! The challenge is for this reform to end up with communities everywhere that are happier than they have been and are ... or unhappier.
Good question ... but not enough! The global economy is now very interconnected and driven on the corporate side by profit and stockholder value and on the customer side by product and what it does for "me". The "green" question is academic and "feel good" but not really part of anything.
We believe you have to start measuring the value impact on society to get traction for corporate change around profit, and behavior change around me. What would actually happen if Apple manufactured its products at factories in North America or Europe ... what price would customers have to pay? ... what reduction in profits would Apple stockholders have to accept.
When you expand this type of rethink to everything the US corporate decision makers have done for the last 20 years, then you lose most of the profit gains reported by the corporate world, and you have soaring cost push inflation in almost every product category.
Would people in North America be better off without the low cost sweatshop strategy of outsourcing? Not an easy question to answer! Would sweatshop employees have been better off without massive outsourcing? Almost certainly outsourcing has been beneficial to workers in China! These are big questions deserving robust debate.
I like the question ... I think there is positive progress ... and that is an OK direction to be going!
This can be done with a better system of scoring ... where more and more and more is not shorthand for being wealthier and better off and therefore happy. The current metrics where GDP growth is the sacred goal ... even when this goal has terrible global ecological implications were everyone to be participating in high GDP economies.
Be happy ... eat less, spend less ... and GDP goes down! Who cares ... I am happy, and so are all my friends. Meanwhile someone else who used to be hungry is eating better ... and happier ... and getting ready to do some good in the world! Their GDP is going up! Simple ideas ... really!