I wrote recently on the issue facing Apple regarding their supply chain and reported human rights abuses. Now, with the iPad 3 likely to be announced tomorrow, new calls from activists are being made for Apple to step up their role in making Foxconn, one of their manufacturing suppliers, more of an equitable place of employment for their workers. Mark Shields, the activist spearheading the campaign to gain Apple's attention, has brought the issue a higher profile over the past month with a petition signed by over 240,000 people. The situation highlights the importance for companies that have operations in foreign countries to take proactive steps at the first signs of unfavorable conditions to avoid both the negative impacts on the lives of the workers, in this case, and the negative exposure that will result from the situation. Taking necessary steps can cut into the bottom-line and potentially disrupt production timelines, but such priorities need to be measured up against harm to local workers and the negative publicity and public relations that could result from any harm and a company's resulting inaction.
Apple, the world's most valuable company, will certainly survive any backlash that comes from reported human rights abuses and these calls for the company to act. Other companies may not survive such turbulence, however. This is an essential point. In other words, it is very important for companies to do what they can to proactively avoid such occurrences in international markets and at home, but this is even more important for smaller companies who cannot absorb the potential backlash as easily as larger corporations with excellent brand recognition and financial standing. Thus, the process of smaller businesses moving into international markets is a much riskier venture than it is for larger companies. By the same token, smaller companies that run into problems may receive less attention than their larger counterparts if they were to find themselves in hot water.
n the end, it is all relative, and smaller companies want to be extra cautious and diligent in their preparations for going abroad. This may apply most clearly to companies that have a physical presence in a new market, but it is also relevant for technology companies whose digital services are available in a new country. SEO companies, for example, may only have a digital presence in new countries with their websites, or hopefully their country-specific websites. Just like a physical presence though, certain considerations, in this case international SEO practices, need to be exercised to avoid both cultural and language-related confusion. No matter if your company has a supply chain presence in a new market, a direct physical presence, or just a digital one, company decision-makers need to be considering the local conditions of the new market.