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How Socially Responsible Are Computer Companies?

Cliff posted more than 14 years ago | from the stuff-to-think-about-for-the-discriminating-buyer dept.

Hardware 377

mlc asks: "I'm involved in some projects for social justice, et al., and I'm also a geek. But I've never really given much thought to reconciling the two. How ethical are computer companies, especially hardware companies? Do semiconductor factories in Taiwan treat their workers better than any other factories in Taiwan? Does Dell donate any of its profits to charity? Are there any other tips for the socially responsible computer buyer?"

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Social Justice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1137074)

Good luck sorting out the just from the unjust. Seems kind of facile to think you can walk into a store, buy a product as complex as a PC and be sure that someone somewhere didn't get screwed over in the design/manufacturing/distribution process.

the issue is overseas labor, not domestic (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1137080)

I think the issue that was raised was not whethor or not domestic software developers or hardware designers are treated okay, i think we all pretty much know that we are - usually treated far better than employees in other sectors. Overseas labor however... I'd be suprised if we could expect any accountablity from the corporations on that mark: not enough people have made it in issue, but thats pure speculation. But even if the overseas employees are treated poorly by our standards, it is likely to their satisfaction, or they probably wouldnt be working at these factories.

What about the environment? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1137082)

The amount of Cadmium and other toxic metals in the effluent of high tech industries is staggering. The toxic environmental effects of the industry is something to consider. Sometimes I think the Luddites are right.

Re:Surprised this even needs to be asked (1)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137089)

Is "fast, but mediocre" really a good alternative to "not quite as fast, but wonderful"?

yes.

Re:[Clue] (1)

quadra (2289) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137090)

I'd certainly rather be underpaid than starving. The availability of jobs is critically important to the development of industry and society in developing countries. Child labor used to exist here in the United States. It didn't really go away because of legislation, it went away because parents began to make enough money to support their kids. If foreign countries are allowed to operate their labor markets freely, work conditions will certainly improve. But if you had it your way, children would just be thrown out in the street to starve. Is that socially responsible?

How about ... (1)

MouseR (3264) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137093)

A company that is both environementally concious [apple.com] AND participates in getting you free ice cream [apple.com] ?

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (1)

Ricdude (4163) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137099)

Do you have any idea how many Microsoft secretaries are millionaires?

Do you? Would you care to enlighten those of us who don't?

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (1)

Ricdude (4163) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137100)

The point is, certainly from a physical comfort standpoint it's quite a nice place to be an employee


I'm sure take excellent physical care of their employees. I've heard wonderful stories about the work environment itself. However, they still partake in activities (such as the legisative attempts to cut the contract employees' earnings), that are abhorrent to this innocent bystander. Remember when the permatemps tried to sue for stock options? Those hard-slaving people who got hired for several months on a contract position, but stayed for several years? No health plan, no dental plan, no stock options. This is a company that can't even trust it's own employees to not go into a building they don't actually work in.


When you take a tour of a Istanbul, do they show you what goes on in a Turkish prison? I'm sure it's a fine place to visit if they want something from you.

Re:support your local mom&pop shop (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137109)

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with you on this. *grin*

When I go to my local mom & pop computer store, I immediately see someone who knows what they're talking about, can help me with my problem, and can provide good, solid recommendations for components based on real-world experience. I've had very good luck, in general, buying and building computers from such places. At my favorite one, many of the employees run Linux at home. That kind of personal service is something you won't find from any of the big companies, especially if you don't also represent a big company.

The only one of the three you mention who's R&D department I have any respect for is IBM. It's actually hard for me to believe that DELL or GATEWAY have R&D departments. Of course, I have a lot of respect for IBMs R&D, but I think they're better served by buying other things from IBM than computers. Unless you're buying mainframes that is. :-)

Business ethics and capitalism (1)

funkman (13736) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137113)

If you look at some of the philosphies of business ethics, it is not a companies responsibility to act ethically. A companies purpose is to make as much money as possible while following the rules of the game. The game being the law. Since a companies main goal is to make money, they should take any means needed. This does not mean that companies must be evil and do wrong to be profitable. People still have the choice to buy or not buy from a company for their own reasons. One of the reasons could be charity. For example, If I want to buy a computer from company A or company B. Company B's computer is 5% more expensive, but also donates a portion of every PC sale to charity. Some may be more inclined to buy from company B than A. If you loosely extrapolate, if all buyers were socially conscious, then company B would sell many more computers than company A and company A would have to revise their business model to be more socially friendly. Other companies may see this trend as a way to attract more business and the worl would be a better place.

Of course the following assumptions were built into this example:

Pure capitalism works

Buyers are socially aware and will choose accordingly

Government has no involvement.

Just some food for thought.

Re:The truth is ... (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137121)

Think about that software for a second. It's Microsoft software, of course. And what is the cost of giving away software? Once it's developed, it's very little to dupe more discs. Plus that number is based on the sticker price for Microsoft products - say $500 for Office, $200 for Windows 98, etc. Lastly, think about who it goes to. A lot of MS software goes to schools and the like. This gains MS market share and helps influence sales when the kids want a home computer to run the programs they use at school, or after school when they're going to college.

Though it's not hardware... (1)

angelo (21182) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137134)

I work for a software company in a Pittsburgh sattelite office, and I can say for the most part I have had no real problems with ethics or corporate responsibility. We take pride in our products and stand behind them 100%. When there is a problem with our EDI solutions such as a failure, be certain we will be on top of it. Our call response time is very short, with some 100 people effectively assisting over 6000 medical practices. When we make mistakes, we admit them and move on honestly instead of attempting a coverup. The employees are well treated, have a relaxed dress code and very good stock compensation/profit sharing plans. There is plenty of incentive to work in areas outside of your norms, and people often pick up side-projects as an internal hobby. It is, so far the best 3 years of my career. I have learned much during this time that my education could never afford me.

Re:The truth is ... (1)

Rombuu (22914) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137137)

Good, sounds like a win-win situation all around then. Schools get software for cheap, and MS gets mindshare.

What's wrong with that?

Re:charity (1)

Rombuu (22914) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137140)

Screw you people, he should keep his damn money and invest it... this allows capital to be loaned out, generating jobs and raising everyone's standard of living, not just those few that some charity gives the money to.

Re:buzzword bingo (1)

proboy256 (34710) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137153)



hrrmph. I'm sorry that you don't understand the importance of humanity in capitalism. However, i would like to see what these companies would say if the government decided to stop regulating the economy. I guess socialism might have it's points, including a stable economy promoting basic human rights (free speech, guaruntees against starvation, safety from 'white-collar' violence). I'd suggest that ou head off to Kentucky where the land has been mined so much, the minig companies are now tearing off the tops of mountains and hills, but I'm sure you'd say that a flat Appalachia is a Good Thing. Maybe instead you'd like to live below one of the clearcuts in Oregon that is in danger of turning into a deadly mudslide in the spring. We've been down that old road before, it didn't work out very well.

Joey

p.s. I don't know why you give a shit about coporate rights, especially when they consistently work against individual's rights.

Re:charity (1)

thrig (36791) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137155)

Now, is it charity from the heart, or charity to get good press because of the damn Justice Department, or just chairty to get into a lower tax bracket?

Frankly, while giving a free PC running Windows to a school is not charity in my book, I don't think the folks in Africa care about the monopolistic source of the aid being provided...

Oh, well. Another Rockefeller to write documentaries about in a few decades.

Re:support your local mom&pop shop (1)

TheDeal (41885) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137159)

Unfortunately I have to disagree with you on this. A mom and pop comp store can't compete with the quality service and support a company like IBM, DELL, or GATEWAY can provide me. And unlike the mom and pop stores there companies actually have R&D labs that they use to inovate their products and create the machines of tomorrow. The mom and pop comp store is just looking for the short term buck.

Surprised this even needs to be asked (1)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137171)

The answer to this question should be obvious from the get go. What do 90% of people need computers for? To do word processing, web surfing, email. A few people need a bit more, maybe a spreadsheet or database. Note that I'm ignoring speciality fields here, like graphic arts, movie production, and numerical analysis. But look at the things that have been forced into general production for all of these people:

CPUs so fast and hot that they need massive heat sinks and their own fans.

CPUs with built-in multimedia instructions that nobody uses. At the expense of higher power consumption

CPUs with vector math instructions that don't have any benefit except for 3D graphics. At the expense of higher power consumption.

3D graphics cards with 4 or 8MB as a standard with every machine, cards that often need their own heat sinks and fans.

AGP, which is even of questionable benefit for 3D games.

And, quite honestly, most of these things aren't even in general use under Linux, with the exception of faster CPUs. By now, we should have computers the size of calculators that use 1 watt of power and boot-up instantly and are solid as a rock. But the pointless push for the bleeding edge keeps everyone from getting what they want. Is "fast, but mediocre" really a good alternative to "not quite as fast, but wonderful"?

Re:charity (1)

Hnice (60994) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137173)

i'm no fan of ms, or the way that it doesn business, and part of me prefers charity that i'm certain is coming from 'pure' motive, and not a desire to look good.

but the fact of the matter is that a $15 billion endowment, even if the kids have to use windows, gets a lot of underprivileged kids online, kids who otherwise wouldn't have the tools to compete. do i like the propogation of windows? no. but if i have to choose between giving a poor kid a windows pc and giving them no pc at all, who the heck am i to say that we shouldn't let them learn something very useful, even if it's maybe not the best possible thing ?

that is, you're letting linux fever blind you to the fact that charity is about helping others first, and making os distinctions second, or third, or fiftieth or something.

this money, i'm not sure of why he gave it, but i know that it immunizes a lot of people, it does a lot of other good. does it make gates look good? of course, and it should. he's donated more than you, or me, or my parents, or yours, or, probably your company, or mine. don't talk to me about %, either -- billions of dollars are billions of dollars, and he's supposedly giving most of it away upon his death, anyway, rather than willing it to his kids.

he's not my favorite, and ms is not my favorite, but we can be thankful that at least his monopolization or the intel os market has a charitable bent to it at the end of the day. it's far far better than nothing, and far far better than he had to do, so stop bashing the guy.

hard one... (1)

romco (61131) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137174)

Corporations are in bussiness to make money, thier
stock holders demand it. This makes it hard for them to compete if they are paying more for labor than their competitors. (i.e paying a fair wage)

I think a lot of the companies based around OSS are a little better at "giving back to the community" but as that segment matures they will start cutting costs. (or they will be put out of bussiness by their competitors)

I as a consumer of computer products would "perfer" to buy my products from companies that "give back" but I am not willing to pay a premium for it.

I think it is easier to boycott companies that are really bad (ie slave labor) than to support companies that are "giving back".

(although I am open to new ideas)

Re:charity (1)

Yo_mama (72429) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137185)

comparitive donations might be valid is some cases, but the Gates's STARTED with 30mil and have donated more since then. M$ also donates software to non-profits (like the one I work and and the school for disabled kids my mother works at) which is good when you are talking about groups that sometimes are using crates as furniture.

The annoying thing about this is that it makes it hard for me as the IS dude to recommend anything other than MS products for our use. OK, the MS proxy server my predecessor setup is getting yanked out and replaced with a BSD/Linux firewall, but if I'm gone they can't find anyone to administer the box because *nix knowledge is harder to find, particularly in the non-profit field. Because everyone knows M$ it makes more sense for me to set up a MS network... especially since Mr Gates himself has been known to drop in here and look around and meet with our CEO. I'd hate for us to lose the money they've given us because he saw Linux on everyone's desktop.... might be worth it from a software evangelising viewpoint but not from the lost program funding hehe

OK that got off topic, sorry.
Two non-profits that get software for free from MS:
http://www.kindering.org [kindering.org]
http://www.seattlefoundation.org [seattlefoundation.org]

... and free SlimFast and free Haagen-Daas, too! (1)

rkent (73434) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137186)

Ha! Yeah, ben and jerry's, er, I mean Unilever, Inc [cnnfn.com] is one helluva socially responsible company! And they've got a robust business plan which will be able to resist a hostile takeover until at least April of this year!

hee hee...

Dell does (1)

Beguile (75476) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137189)

I work at Dell Computer Corp at the headquarters in Round Rock TX. We've donated lots of money to lots of charities. We have another one coming up here in the very near future that we're taking a big part in that is sponsored by Vignette [vignette.com] (another austin based tech company). Not that I particularly care about this stuff, but we do do a lot for the charities.. just my 2 cents..

Re:charity (1)

MacBastard (79902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137193)

Unfortunately, when Mr. Bill gives to schools, they are with the *understanding* that these schools will use the funds to purchase computer systems that run M$ operating systems and use M$ software. They are definitely strings attached types of donations that preclude students from learning about other OS's like Linux or MacOS.

Re:One socially conscientious company... (1)

chewbca (79906) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137197)

heh heh.. I couldn't be farther from PR if I wanted to!

Actually I'm an engineer.. but i am nonetheless impressed with HP's commitment to community involvement..

Sorry to hear TI are such bastards.. I loved the
TI-99/4A.. (my first computer)..

Re:One socially conscientious company... (1)

chewbca (79906) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137198)

Wow..

It's ironic, I think, here I am sitting at HP, makers of some of the best calculators in the world.. and what did I use in college? a TI-85..
lol.. but i see what you mean about everyone wanting one.. and on the Barnes/Starbucks front i'm torn, because I don't mind shopping at Barnes and Noble, but I detest Starbucks.. i don't know why.. but i do...

Re:[Clue] (1)

Eruantalon (87981) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137202)

Not a bad thought. Actually, it's probably the best thought on this page so far. It's the only one that made me think.

Social Responsibility is complete bullshit.

Well, maybe not complete bullshit, but it shouldn't be the basis of deciding if a company is "moral" or not. It's more the result of individuals and companies making the best product possible. If the product is created to be the most useful and well-built product of its kind and if it produces a benefit to society greater than the cost of creating it, then IMO it's the best product of its kind, and the company producing it is socially responsible in the moral and ethical sense.

There's no motive to live in a polluted environment.

Very true. The problem nowadays is that companies seem to forget this fact. They try to get their product out to the public as quick and easily as possible with the least amount of immediate cost to themselves. If this means dumping toxic waste in a river instead of paying to have it cleaned correctly, they'll do it. If this means cutting time & a half overtime out, they'll do it. If it means beating Indonesian children so they work faster, the companies will do it. What companies don't seem to realize is that what they do has an impact on the world as a whole. They seem to forget that the toxic waste they dump can cause an ecological disaster that could wipe us off the face of the earth, they seem to forget that beating the hell out of their employees can cause race, gender, and international problems. They forget that what you give out comes back eventually.

The most moral and ethical thing a person can do is work hard and get the most from your money.

Sounds like Ayn Rand to me, but then I always did agree with her basic points concerning business. If a business wants to create the best product out there, if they research ways of making the product better, if they implement those ways and indeed make their product better than anything else on the market, it's a damn good product. Then they need to sell their product in the way which will generate as much profit for the company itself, without screwing consumers out of anything. If the product is too pricey, no one will buy it - that's economincs. If it's too cheap, it'll screw the company out of money, and may not sell as well as it should have because consumers may think that it's an inferior product. Companies shouldn't be so worried about how they're going to sell their product. They should be much, much more worried about how they're going to produce their product and how they're going to inform the public of its existence and benefits. If it's a good product and people know enough about it to make informed decisions, the product should sell itself. The only reason it wouldn't is if there's no use for it in the market.

Now let me say something about "sweatshops". The "moral and ethical" people always piss me off about this subject. If a company goes into, say India, and starts a manufacturing plant that costs the company less than if they started the plant in the US, people always label that foreign-located plant as a sweatshop. It may be, it may not be. People always bitch because companies are paying their workers in India $5/day (I don't know if this is the actual wage, I just made it up to make my point). Well, think about this for a second. If everyone else in the industry in India is getting paid $5/day, then those workers are just as well off as any other Indian who works in that industry. A company can't go into India and pay their workers $10/day, or all hell will break loose. Indians will flood that plant looking for jobs due to the money, and some will leave the other plants for that extra $5/day. So now this new company has to pay its workers twice what the other companies are paying their workers, so if this new company can't cut costs somewhere, they're not going to do well selling their product - it'll be too expensive and no one will buy it. They'll eventually go out of business, leaving many Indians without jobs and worse off than they were when they were getting paid $5/day. Besides, in a country with widespread poverty, people would be storming that plant trying to get jobs, beating up the workers in that plant for some extra cash, and in general, causing havoc. The company who tried to pay its Indian workers the higher wages ends up doing nothing but destroying itself and hurting many of its former employees. Does this sound like a moral company? And would you buy their product at twice the price just because they pay their workers a little more? Would you even know that they paid their workers more? Then don't bitch about companies not paying employees enough - if they pay them more, problems arise.

What is needed is for companies to start in India, be based in India, and be working to make India a better place to live. Outside companies can't do that - they'll be resented and won't understand the Indian community well enough in order to make it better. If enough Indian-based companies start up, keep their pay rates similar and slowly raise them, while at the same time working for a better India, then things might begin to pick up. The only problem with that is, there's not enough people in India to sell computers to. The industry needs to make a product that Indians need and can afford, like food, clothing and shelter. Outside companies don't want to go into India and produce houses - it's not profitable for them. If Indian companies did this, however, they'd have a product they could sell and make a profit on, as well as help their country at the same time. Well, there's another problem with that - starting up companies in India can be problematic due to lack of funds. Thus, Indians go to other countries to get knowledge and money, then either return to their country to help out, or stay in the other country and forget their homeland.

Third-world countries can't be "helped" into becoming first-world countries through charity. They need to be taught to work for themselves, to make things better in their own homeland. They need to work their way up slowly. Throwing money and food at people will help for a while, but what happens when the money & food are gone? Starving people again. Teach them how to grow food, build houses, make clean water, and have them do it themselves, and they'll be on their way to becoming a first-world country with no more problems than other first-world countries.

Those are my beliefs, anyways.

Eruantalon

Re:Volunteer work (1)

pogtal (88024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137206)

Let's not kid ourselves. I live in a city that GE owned for a /very/ long time. During that tenure, they kept virtually every other buisness out of this city. About fifteen years ago, they pulled out of this town, and it's not a shithole. Very "good neighborish" eh?

As for other tech companies, I would say it is /very/ difficult to judge. On the one hand, we would all like every country to have excellent standards for things like human rights and enviromental regulations like the US does, but unfortunately, countries like Taiwan and China let companies get away with terrible things like virtually slave labor and dumping toxic chemicals into the ground and air. I mean, remember, production of semiconductor devices is /extremely/ toxic.

Until we get universal workers' rights and enviromental laws (that have some teeth so people actually follow them) companies, all companies, even companies that we like, are going to do bad things. Companies are here to make money. That's what government is for, to protect you and me (royal) from the company, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

(man this is turning into a socialist rant)

Remember, just because someone "good" is in charge of a company, and/or the company has a "good neighboor policy" doesn't mean (in any way) that it necessarily does all good things all times. Do you think Steve Jobs knows every worker in every factory that Apple uses? Do you think Mike Dell interviews all of his factory managers in Taiwan to make sure they are paying fare wages and not "accidentally" dumping chemicals...?


I wish.

Re:charity (1)

pogtal (88024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137207)

Don't look at the total amount of $$ that Big Gates has given to charitible organizations, look at percentage wealth.

Me giving 1,000 USD, a helluva lot of my total money.

Big Gates giving 1,000USD, does he even notice? If Big Gates gave 100,000USD, does he even notice...?

Re:charity (1)

pogtal (88024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137208)

The point is whether or not he is giving away money so that he can say "look at me, I got kids adicted to a crappy operating system by giving away the money I have in my wallet" versus "look at me, I really care, and gave away real money".

I think it is admirable for anyone to give away any amount of money or do anything charitable, but when you are talking about someone with 130 billion USD, it really shifts perspectives on his philanthropy, or lack thereof.

Re:Volunteer work (1)

pogtal (88024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137209)

...it's now a shithole.

sorry about that.

Re:Social responsibilty (1)

mr (88570) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137215)

Micro$oft is no different than any other company who spends money on the "many leaches" (politicians). Remember too, that M$ political contributions were minimal until they announced they wanted a hunk of banking/the communication (phone) industries.

(What industries know how and have made campaign contributions for years...banking/telcos. Remember when M$ was going to put quicken outta business/buy them/get into banking? At about that same time, it leaked they were going to get into communications. When they got blocked WRT the intuit buyout, you will note how the political contributions shot WAY up.)

My comment about the quality is based on this: *I* consider it a mark of responsibility when you advertise something as working and is sold as working, it had better work as advertise. M$ fails that test historically for the most part.

Re:Depends (1)

rasmichael (88800) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137216)

For the most part, that is true. Many entrepreneurs are highly conscious of how their employees are feeling and whether or not they are happy on a day-to-day basis. However, there are several species of entrepreneur that fail to meet employees demands -- for the most part because it would cost them (the boss, that is) money out of his or her pocket. We call this exploitation.

Now, i'm not a socialist or anything, but since these companies tend to live in the 50-150 employee range, and are for the most part rather unorganized, there is really nothing that the employees can do. once the small-business boss has made his first few bucks, he knows that he has found a system that works. if he chanegs it, he may lose his momentum -- something he cannot afford to do in the computer business.

Granted, i'm sure this is more prevalent in hardware than in software. Hardware people are easier to keep at lower salaries and lesser working conditions than programmers per se... and especially if the company is based somewhere other than the big tech-centers in the US or germany.

Taiwan, of course, is a whole different story. If you think you have it bad, think of 18 hour days, seven days a week, plus the oddly accepted social norm that your boss owns your soul and you must do everything he says.

Re:Companies... its about profit NOT ethics (1)

brennan73 (94035) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137224)

There will never be any big company spending a big amount of money on charity, without thinking they will get something back (pr, higher stocks, etc...), which again is to raise income.
Personally, I don't care *why* a corporation is donating to charity, whether it's to be a nice bunch of people, to get bigger profits, to get into heaven, whatever. As long as the right charities/organizations benefit, what difference does it make? And to be honest, I'd rather have a charitable, more profitable company than a miserly, less profitable company.

I know what you're saying, and no doubt it doesn't exactly warm the heart to envision board meetings where companies coldly calculate a cost-benefit analysis to giving to charity, and even *which* charity. But, pragmatically speaking...(shrug)

-brennan

Re:[Clue] (1)

brennan73 (94035) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137225)

No offense, but what a load of crap. Capitalism and social responsibility are IN NO WAY mutually exclusive, and IMO a good capitalist society *requires* attention to social issues. I am a capitalist, and to some extent I vote with my dollars: for example, I don't shop at Wal-Mart because I disagree strongly with their politics. If enough people act likewise, Wal-Mart will change these policies or go out of business. In other words, we can effect social change without resorting to force, which results in not only a better society (only companies that are socially responsible can stay in business), but a capitalist society.

If you mean that social responsibility in general is complete bullshit, you're just being silly and reactionary. Can you *possibly* believe that turning a blind eye to social issues and not holding companies responsible for their actions is the best way to insure social justice? If so, I suggest you do just a small amount of research before spouting off about the evil socially conscious people.

In regards to the original topic, didn't I hear somewhere that Bill Gates wants to give his fortune away before he dies (leaving some for his kids, of course)? If so, I wonder what, exactly, he'll do with it? $50 billion or so could change a hell of a lot of lives.

-brennan

A Little Note..... (1)

Bill Daras (102772) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137243)

Apple was just awarded some prize for being incredibly nice to the enviornment. While Steve Jobs has been hosting campagn dinners for Mrs. Clinton

On the GOP side Geroge W. Bush (a.k.a shill for Microsoft) got a big chunk of change from Dell.

Well, if you *really* wanna know.... (1)

mat catastrophe (105256) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137246)

I would suggest asking them directly, whether by visiting their websites and looking for info on their practices (this would apply mostly to info on charitable involvement, since most companies would not willingly (or even truthfully) post info on workplace conditions).
Having done that, you could also e-mail their PR/HR offices and simply ask for info on what they do and how they treat people, etc, etc.... By the way, there is an article on mired.com about "Microsoft's right-wing capitalism versus Apple's pleasant communism," but since it is a mired column, it is a little more opinion and conjecture than actual fact. Still, damn amusing....

Re:[Clue] (1)

mat catastrophe (105256) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137247)

Please tell me that you just forgot to put your "sarcasm" tags on that post...Please?

To say that "social responsibility" for a company begins and ends with getting a product out cheap is to completely ignore the overall impact that production has on "society" while overemphasizing the fact that you got something cheap. That's arrogant and disgusting.

F'rinstance, if a hardware company makes high-end PCs and sells them for less than $500, but only does so because it uses underpaid labor (with no benefits and probably not in the U$) *and* gets away with dumping toxic by-products of the production into streams and lakes near the plant *and* employs predatory sales/business practices, does that mean that they are *IN ANY WAY* a good company just because they got you a PC for $499 (sales tax not included, void where prohibited, etc)??? No! That makes them a capitalist entity, and one that is particularly nasty to a number of people to benefit another number of people. That's exploitation, and it is (to me, and probably most people) wrong no matter how many people are benefitted on the purchasing side....

The most moral and ethical thing a person can do is work hard and get the most from your money.
Again, you are kidding, right?

Companies (1)

siokaos (107110) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137255)

You can compare the corporate onslaught of entire computer systems to that of any other industry.

Think about it:: 99% of the people driving cars have no idea what's going on inside.

Companies can develop hardware that's proprietary, totally abusing the actual manufacturer. If a product line fails, then the producer recieves the hit.

Corporations are allowed to totally modify the entire process of building the entire machine, with no ethic regard to the end user or manufacturer.
.sig:

Re:Whoever heard of a major company... (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137261)

How about the companies that recently gave away computers to their employees? I seem to remember at least two different companies doing this (one being Ford if I remember correctly...)

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:charity (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137262)

Does it really matter what percentage it is? He's still giving money to good causes, and it's a LOT of money. This is a good thing no matter how much of his wealth it represents.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:charity (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137263)

Yes, maybe the education donations are a bit conditional, but what about the other ones? He's given $100 million to immunize kids in other countries, he's given over 2.2 billion to the William H. Gates foundation, a foundation which "provides grants in the areas of world health and population, education, and services"...

look here if you want, http://www.seattleinsider.com/technology/news/1999 /02/05/gates_donation.html

I'm just saying that he *HAS* done some good things among the long list of nasty ones.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:charity (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137264)

Who really cares if the charity is for good press? It's still money going to a good cause, right? Isn't that the only thing that counts?

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:charity (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137265)

From what I've read, he's given away at least $5 billion... that's hardly anything to laugh at, even if it is only 1/26th of his wealth.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:charity (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137266)

aww, but I don't WANT to take it out..

Seriously, though. I know it may seem as though I'm fiercely defending the guy... that's not really the case. I'm not that fond of him and his corporation, but he *DID* do a good thing, and we should give him credit for it.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:Who ever is sells the best product... (1)

medicthree (125112) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137277)

Okay, take a few deep breaths and calm down. If you would take the time to read what I said and try to understand it (I'm not sure if that's a concept that's familiar to you) you would quite clearly see that I was in no way advocating the importance of social responsibility nor was I in any way making any claims to the importance of it. All I was doing was criticizing a particular definition of it.

Think about it this way. Let's say there's an activity X. Let's say I really think activity X is a horrible activity, and it's one I would never advocate. This doesn't mean that I'm in any way being inconsistent when I argue with someone about their definition of what it means to be "doing activity X." That's exactly the case here. I was arguing the definition of something rather than its applicability in a particular case or what I think of it in general. For all you know I could think social responsibility is complete BS. Try to read and understand before flaming next time.

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (1)

GreenGhost (126676) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137279)

Do you have any idea how many Microsoft secretaries are millionaires?

Please, the largest company on earth nowadays treats its workers well.

Not that I'm defending Microsoft in the anti-trust case or anything.

Re:One socially conscientious company... (1)

rwade (131726) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137288)

I smell a pr person... :) But I am very glad to hear that Bill and Dave's idea's and goodheartedness still live on within one of the best companies in the world. (I hate TI :))

Re:One socially conscientious company... (1)

rwade (131726) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137289)

sorry to tell you that they are...damn monopolists... :) and they're calculators suck to. Of course, I'm just saying this because nearly everyone I know wants one, and I'm the kinda person that hates Starbucks and Barnes and Noble. ;)

Re:Who ever is sells the best product... (1)

FreshView (139455) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137297)

I agree, however my viewpoint may be a touch skewed since I'm re-reading Atlas Shrugged right now.

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (1)

FreshView (139455) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137298)

Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft is probably actualy nice to many of its employees. It is under such scrutiny that it can't afford not to. However, some of the less popular hardware companies (AOPen, and the other really small and unheard of ones that you can't find at Best Buy) probably aren't as benevolent.

As software programmers go, they have to be nice or they'll all leave, due to the fact that the demand for software programmers is higher than the supply.

Man, you people can not stop slamming Microsoft, can you? You've said in the second paragraph why microsoft treats it's employees so well, something you snidely hinted at in the first paragraph as "they have to" Ah well (-1, Flamebait)

Companies... its about profit NOT ethics (1)

-BeeWarlock- (141956) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137301)

The only ideal companies there is, is the really small ones, which are operating on screwing investors with optimistic ideas. This is the sick thing about humanity and money, money is no longer about the values created by the work the money represent, but only by the amount of money. Money is simply no good, if it's used for shit.

Well, the free software community is not like that, and that's why I love it with all my heart. I've met a lot of people saying "you wouldn't do it if it were zero money in it", but they don't know about the pleasure of creating values, with nothing else in return but values created by other people. It's like... values represent values, like it should, and not like the corporate way, where values are exchanged for screwing customer most possible without being taken on the bed.

There will never be any big company spending a big amount of money on charity, without thinking they will get something back (pr, higher stocks, etc...), which again is to raise income.

The problem is that corporates as we know them today is about making money, not creating stuff...

But... it may still be the right, or at least best way to do it. A lot of free software advocates (like Richard Stallman; extreme example) does not. I'll leave the question open

Dell & Charities (1)

ZikZak (153813) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137309)

Does Dell donate any of its profits to charity?

Yes, somewhat. Dell does provide financial & other support to some organizations. Of course they put their name all over it, so it's more PR than charity.

Many of the executives of the company (including Michael himself) do donate quite a bit of their own $ to local arts groups, too. Again, though, how much of this is done to generate good press and help the ol' tax return is open to debate.

But however you look at it, there are quite a few organizations that would either be struggling or simply not exist if it weren't for Dell's profits.

Moderators need to be reprogrammed (1)

MaxGrant (159031) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137317)

Apparently they cannot view anything as sarcastic or funny without little neticons or tags. See the above post and try to read it a little more carefully before you slam that -1 on it.

Geeks for Good (1)

bagus (161553) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137319)

There are alot of nonprofit organizations needing technical assistance. If anyone ever feels the need (and you should) to help others, there are many groups that can help direct your skills to help nonprofit groups tackle their use of technology to help their work. A great group you should check out is http://www.netcorps.org. They are recruiting students to help with nonprofit technical assistance. These students not only learn more about technology, but they learn how to work with people, develop projects and other real world skills.

Re:charity (1)

Pinball Wizard (161942) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137320)

Its not even worth Bill's time to pick up a $20 bill lying on the floor.

However... he has given $17.1 billion to charity so far through the Gates foundation. He's also hell-bent on being the worlds greatest philanthropist, ever. Seems to be doing a pretty good job so far.

Here are a few links for further reading.

Bill Gates' foundation named nation's wealthiest [newstribune.com]
The Gates of Philanthropy Open Wide [msn.com]

Re:Herro eberybody (1)

Darguz (162771) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137321)

No problem. No problem at all -- let me know if there is anything else I can clear up for you.


--

Re:Herro eberybody (1)

Darguz (162771) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137322)

It got marked flame bait because it is. The r/l substitution is a problem of pronunciation, not spelling, and although I have known Japanese to do it in writing and typing (I did training ops with the JDF when I was in the Navy), they don't do it consistently, and definitely not on silent l's like in "talk".


--

Re:charity (1)

Darguz (162771) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137323)

Well, yes and no. Obviously, the beneficiaries of it are benefited either way. And I see no reason a company making charitable contributions shouldn't get good press for it. They deserve to be recognized, and people who are interested in supporting such companies, such as the originator of this topic, can know what companies to support.

So in a sense, yes, that's enough. But when the good PR is the only motivation, and the good will isn't sincere, then you have to consider that if the social pressure shifts away, or in areas where there isn't currently any social pressure, they aren't so benevolent.


--

Taiwan semiconductor factories (1)

wsabstract (165998) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137327)

Do semiconductor factories in Taiwan treat their workers better than any other factories in Taiwan?

Why would they be, or not be, for that matter? You're confusing Taiwan with China. Taiwan is a fully democratic country in which workers of all profession- not just those in the semiconductor sector- are treated professionally and humanely, with corresponding laws to back them up. In this respect, the country is no different than the US or Europe.

---------------

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (1)

a_cussword (169950) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137333)

1.) My guess is zero.

2.) My friends in the census bureau say it sux ass. (The US GOVT is still the largest i betcha.)

HP at least tries to help the environment. (2)

sleeping wolf (1671) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137343)

As you may or may not be aware, Hewlett-Packard [hp.com] tries to protect the environment from something rather nasty -- toner. They've teamed to up pay for spent toner cartridges to be sent back to them at no cost to you. They have a section on their website [hp.com] where they talk about their environmental policy.

I finally used up my first toner cartridge last year and they made it trivial for me to send it back to them for recycling.

They also talk about [hp.com] other facets of their philanthropic image on their website, but I've never had any personal involvement, so YMMV.

[Clue] (2)

quadra (2289) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137344)

Here's your tip, it doesn't matter. Social Responsibility is complete bullshit. I want to buy from a company which spends their time researching and improving their products. If they can make better products, cheaper; the benefit to socitey is far greater than any possible charity could offer. It is completely backward to expect business to act so altruistically. If that were the predominent mentality, we'd still be in the dark ages. Capitalism and the profit motive has resulted in extraordinary advances in technology, especially in medical science. Acting socially responsible has nothing to do with those advances. The fact is that in general, we all live in the general vicinity of our workplace. There's no motive to live in a polluted environment. The most moral and ethical thing a person can do is work hard and get the most from your money.

Re:Social responsibilty (2)

Ricdude (4163) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137345)

Here on /., Micro$oft is disliked for the quality of the code they sell. (think if the stuff worked.)

If you think the quality of Microsoft's products is the *only* reason not to use them, you're not listening carefully enough. As recently as last week, they managed to buy their way into the George W. Bush campaign. They will push hard for him to win, because he's not going to push anyone in the judicial branch to do anything about Microsoft. Do you want *any* corporation to have that level of control with any politician? Let alone a corporation that has been judged as illegally acquiring and maintaining a monopoly

They're cheaper! (2)

Uruk (4907) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137346)

I'm in the Richmond, VA area, and we have two mom&pop type stores - Unitek computers and NTK computers. Both of them sell the same hardware components that CompUSA sells, at generally about 5-10% less. They also specialize in hardware, and know something about it. The big chain retailers don't really know anything about computers outside what they're told they should know by microsoft. The people running and staffing the mom and pop tech shops do it because they love it and they're good at it, not because they're trying to push their stock price up.

Whenever possible, I buy from mom & pop hardware shops - there was one exception where I needed a certain drive NOW and they had to order it, I couldn't wait so I had to buy from comp usa, but in general, in my area you always get a more knowledgeable sales staff and a better price at the local non-corporate shops.

It's not their *job*! (2)

Boiner (58993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137375)

It's not a company's *job* to be social responsible. It's a company's *job* to be ecomomically responsible in making money for those who've invested the capital. Frequently, that does involve 'social responsibility' as a result.

If you want to be socially responsible, here's your best bet:

Make the best deal you can, for the best price that you can, and donate your 'extra' money to the charity or cause of your choice. Using the company as a social proxy is in-efficient compared to making a normal buying decision and having your personal causes a separate and distinct thing.

I'm not against the concept of social responsibility, I just think it's best done independently.

Volunteer work (2)

Epi-man (59145) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137376)

Well, I do know that every company I have ever worked for and interviewed with (all silicon folks, here in the US, but some are foreign companies) all stress to their employees that the company needs to be a good neighbor. Some even offer to pay their employees when they do volunteer work. Those ads that GE air I am sure are not fakes by any stretch. They may work the employees hard, but they do try and give back to the community (sure, we can be cynical and say it is all for PR purposes, but does that matter?).

Re:actually not that silly of an example, (2)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137383)

Von Braun was not the first man to make a rocket engine. Solid fuel rockets have been aroung since the Chinese invented gunpowder. He wasn't the first to play with liquid fuel either. In fact, most of his work was a rehash of Robert Goddard's decade old designs. Goddard had gyro guided, blast-vane directed liquid-fuel rockets up in the air when Von Braun and company in the German Army were still trying to get a fuel pump that didn't cause the rocket to explode on the pad.

The V-2 choke shutter was a novel idea though, although I don't know if that was Von Braun or not.

One socially conscientious company... (2)

chewbca (79906) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137386)

that I know of is the one I work for.. HP..

Since I've been here I've come to realize that Hewlett-Packard does a lot for the community.
In particular, there is a very close alliance with United Way and conducting a donation drive annually.
Also HP focuses its efforts locally. For instance, our site's contributions directly benefits the surrounding area.

I think companies and ESPECIALLY ones with earnings in the 10^9 $US should contribute to the surrounding community of its offices. If for NOTHING else, than to the betterment of the educational resources for the families of the community in which the company resides..

i'm happy to work for a company that shares this viewpoint.

:)

advertise it (2)

passion (84900) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137388)

If there are companies out there that engage in friendly activities, advertise it. I eat vegetarian, and try to purchase organic foods as much as possible because it's not only friendly for the earth and my body, but tastes better as well. Companies should let it be known on the packaging that they engage in friendly practices, and that your purchase of their prodcut won't go towards enslaving someone else on the other side of the planet to make more of what you bought.

I thought that's what writing programs and building robotics was all about, reducing the amount of labor required by people instead of increasing it, and reducing the pleasure from it.

If computers are more perishable than fruit... (the machine I bought 3 months ago is obsolete already) then where is all this stuff supposed to go after it's lifespan is finished? Why are we leaving behind this wonderful legacy of well constructed open source systems, if there won't be anyone around to use them? Contributing to the source pool adds strength to the group, so does being kind to our planet.

Now what I'd like to see it a keyboard, mouse and case to be made out of wood, and have some nice detail carved in.

Just get the word out... (2)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137390)

What would be useful for those who want to include social concerns into their purchasing decisions would be to have a central source of information listing various technology companies in terms of environmental responsibility, treatment of workers, charitable endeavors, etc. (there probably is one already, I'm just not aware of it) Once enough prominent firms show some altruistic works, there might well be a "me too" effect that draws more companies into the process.

I know there are mutual funds out there that are supposedly made up of "socially responsible" firms, so that might be a good place to start.

That said, I think we'll see these New Economy corporations get more involved with their communities, but it will be a few years off yet, while these companies and their markets mature. With business moving along at "internet speed", charitable works end up ranking pretty low on the priority list. There's simply too much going on right now.

Computer Companies and Charities (2)

TheReverand (95620) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137392)

Here [salon.com] Is an interesting article from Salon about large companies donatin to charity. Included are HP, IBM and MS. It's dated but relevant.

Here [capitalresearch.org] is a little more recent set of numbers for MS, HP, IBM, Oracle, Apple and some others.

It even talks about Bill's personal charity foundation.

-Marc

Re:charity (2)

billybob jr (106396) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137394)

I guess this just goes to show that rarely is a person really good or evil, just a human being. I dislike Bill Gates, but not really on a personal level. I dislike the power he wields over the computer industry. I can respect the fact that he made some very good (some what lucky?) business decisions early on in his career to become successful. What I don't respect is the way his corporation has acted nor do I respect many of the crappy products it has released.

But it is nice to see him give back some money. It would be even nicer to see him take a break from his quest to rule the world and personally donated time to a cause. For all we know some PR person that makes 6 figures a year cuts the checks for publice relations purposes.

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (2)

n3rd (111397) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137397)

Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft is probably actualy nice to many of its employees.

Actually, it's more "contrary to the uninformed person's belief" rather than "contrary to popular belief". Anyone who's read a Bill Gates biography or a history of Microsoft that's more than 5 pages (ie: not some article on the web) would know that Microsoft has been good to their employees for years (heck, I guess I could almost even say "decades"). Free Coke (ahem, the liquid not the powder), all company retreats (I'm unsure if they still do this, but they used to) and how many millionaires has Microsoft made with it's stock?

It is under such scrutiny that is can't afford not to.

As you've seen from my above paragraph, this didn't start recently. I mean, come on! Do you really think Uncle Bill was a whip bearing slave driver until the DOJ came along? I think not, and as a matter of fact, I know not.

charity (2)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137398)

I'm not sure about Dell, but our (*ahem*) good friend Bill G. has given extremely large quantities of money to charity. Guess the guy isn't ALL bad... just mostly ;)

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:Who ever is sells the best product... (2)

medicthree (125112) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137400)

that's just great..and just what I would expect to hear in our consumer-oriented society. So using your line of logic, you view the company making Brand X to be more "socially responsible" than Brand Y even if Brand X uses slaves to make their products, while Brand Y has entirely humane conditions and donates all of its money to charity? I realize that these are ridiculous examples, but following your line of logic they would have to hold. I know that there aren't situations exactly like this in the real world, I'm just trying to point out the ridiculousness of basing a determination of social responsibility just on product quality.

Re:Who ever is sells the best product... (2)

medicthree (125112) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137401)

No, I certainly don't "get it." I don't think that's what the poster was trying to say, and even if he was trying to say that it would still be a useless statement. "Whoever is nicest has the best product" is in no way useful--is that supposed to mean that whoever has the best product must have been the one practicing the most socially responsible actions, or is it supposed to mean that the poster believes that whoever is most socially responsible to him makes the products that are the best? If it's the latter, this in no way answers the question about how socially responsible the industry is. If it's the former, it's just plain foolish.

thanks for making me feel bad!!! (2)

rwade (131726) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137404)

Well...hmmm...I know also that many technology companies employ slave labor in stuff like that (such as Lucent technologies, as is implied in their proxy a while back when they voted to _not_ get rid of slave labor) and also very low wages. Unfortunetly, the worst stuff goes on with the builders of the components like Intel, so you can't just go a build your own computer. Well...what I guess you could do is just build your own components, but that might be a rather big job. What I suggest you do is write to the companies you are worried about asking them to reconsider their actions. On your next point, I know that several tech companies do a lot of charity work such as matching donations and a lot of other monetary things and also things like employee volunteering weeks and things such as that. Unfortunetly, this is a very difficult question to answer and I'm glad it was posted. Good Luck! :)

Re:support your local mom&pop shop (2)

rwade (131726) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137405)

but what about the component makers, Intel, National, etc...?

Ethics (2)

Puff65535 (135814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137406)

Well, its only one part of the social interaction of a company with the world, but company ethics can be easier to judge than anything else. Two big names that come to mind are Kingston and Hewlett Packard. I can't speak for Kingston, but having worked for HP in the past, I can say that most managers there actually try and follow the company's ethical policy. Most companies pay lip service to "doing the right thing" but the HP environment actually fosters doing it(not to say they are angels, but the company doesn't punish those who do the right thing, and sometimes does come down hard on those who don't)

Define and quantify (2)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137408)

How do you define and quantify socially responsible?

Does donating $X to charity count more than not having slave labor? Does it count, when the company makes changes, when caught? As we know, when the clothing manufacturers were caught with slave labor, they made moves to improve it. But, companies that did not use slave labor should get more credit, than ones who cleaned up after getting caught.

How many points do we asess against Mattel for the CPHack case? My case? Mattel's general abusive of practice?

What about a company that produces a 'bad ' product, but donates to a charity? Maybe a gun (or whatever) manufacturer that also teaches math to kids in ghettos. How do we compute that?

Apple EHS (2)

CrazyJoel (146417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137409)

I don't know if this is on topic. Here's the Apple Recycles [apple.com] webpage.

These are their corporate initiatives [apple.com] .

Pretty sure about donating. (2)

AustenDH (157687) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137413)

I don't know of a single large company (larger than a two location hardware store chain) that does not contribute to charities. It's good business sense to make financial contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations, and is a standard business practice to do so in exchange for the tax credits they recieve. A good question to ask though, is whether or not the charity they support is a charity you want to contribute to. Does Phillip Morris contribute to the Christian Coalation or to Green Peace, or both? Do you want to support a company who finances these organizations? I like Green Peace, but I don't really want a dime of my money going to the CC. As far as worker treatment, I don't know a whole lot about those conditions. I know that from our perspective, these workers are making scant wages, but if you look at it from their ecological perspective, some of these factory workers are making a decent living. If you don't know what a company is doing as far as being a good neighbor, go to their website and read their mission statement, call and ask which organizations they work for, and as far as worker treatment, etc., that would probably take a bit of research and possibly investigation.

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (3)

Phaid (938) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137418)

What are you smoking, and where do I get some? Really, have you already forgotten the efforts of Microsoft to abolish time and a half overtime for their hourly contract employees? When they tried to get the state of Washington to exclude "information tech" workers wholesale from that particular benefit?

Try going there yourself before shooting off like that.

Contract workers are one thing, employees are another. I've been to Microsoft's campus for interop meetings they've hosted, and it's quite a nice place to work. Every employee has an office, every building has a cafeteria, there are break rooms on every floor with racks of free soft drinks. From a visitor's perspective I'll say that they cater very well. People who work at Microsoft spend a great deal of time there, and the company makes an effort to ensure that these employees don't mind being there. The department I dealt with has meetings one Friday afternoon each month where beer is served. No one complains about their salary, or the stock options, etc.

The point is, certainly from a physical comfort standpoint it's quite a nice place to be an employee. The culture is weird and ethically I could never work there, but that doesn't mean its an unpleasant place to spend half a week.

Socially responsible? (3)

seebs (15766) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137425)

I generally hope to buy from companies that are doing their best to be as efficient as possible. I'd rather spend 5% less, and buy something from a company that gives nothing to charity, then buy something from a company that makes a big deal about giving to charities. I'd rather pick my own charities, and I'd rather not support yet another layer of people who get paid to come between me and the recipients.

This doesn't mean I don't mind companies dumping toxic wastes...

Still, I find the most socially responsible thing I can think of is for a company to do its best to produce a good product, handle it efficiently, and not waste resources. If they do this, I am likely to end up with more time and money to spend doing the socially responsible things *I* care about.

Open Source? (3)

frantzdb (22281) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137426)

Clearly Open Source software is awfull for the workers. Think about it now, most work for what? NOTHING! Most of these poor people work at awfull hours, sacrificing their nights, weekends and their sleep, and social lives. Open Source Software is clearly a socially unacceptable industry that must be stoped at all costs. Help the poor programers. They may say that they do it for fun but don't be fooled!

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (3)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137427)

How would you like to spend all day lining up the same two pins on a resistor to the same two holes on your board. How would you like to spend all week at it?

I spent 4 years doing it at AT&T (later called Lucent) and it beats the hell out of construction work or being on a road crew. The nature of electronics requires a controlled environment. Sweat on a circuit board before solder is applied will play havoc with your quality control. I wouldn't bet that foreign high tech factories are as nice as those in the US, but I can almost guarantee that they are better than sweat shop conditions in textile factories.

Re:It's not their *job*! (3)

Cuthalion (65550) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137429)

However, some decisions can be financially correct but morally wrong. For instance exploiting child labor in a third world country and paying them dirt, or dumping hazardous waste somewhere legal but still dangerous, may be the 'best' deal they can make. Donating the resultant profits to charity is not a reasonable substitute for making consciencious decisions in the first place. (Only partially because it's ALWAYS easier and cheaper to break things than to fix them)

Depends (3)

jheinen (82399) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137431)

FWIW, (I'm a consultant and have worked for everything from Fortune 500 companies to internet start-ups) I think smaller companies tend towards being more ethical than larger companies. Big companies usually talk a nice line about their social responsibility, but ultimately they are beholden to the stockholders and the bottom-line is paramount. Small companies, especially ones that are privately held, are more tied to an individual's conscience. They're more human.

actually not that silly of an example, (3)

Savage Henry Matisse (94615) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137432)

considering that the first rocket engines (super high quality German suckers designed by none othe rthan the Edision of rocketry, Wernher von Braun [britannica.com] ) were built by concentration camp slave labor. It was certainly the best product of its kind availible, so . . .

Slashdot Employs Illegal Migrant Workers (3)

Municipa (99320) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137433)

for $2.20 an hour. These poor illegal aliens transmit TCP/IP by hand, via telegraph and are forced to learn PHP by gunpoint. In many South American communities, slashdot is a word uttered with great fear. The 'slash' in slashdot means and entirely different thing to these people.

If nothing else, please post responsibly people- remember there may be a human beinging grueling over the ip header of the packet containing your ill-mannered post. And no, they don't have moderator access either.

Seagate and Toxic chemicals (3)

SClitheroe (132403) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137434)

I'm not sure if your interest specifically constrained to social issues, but I'd recommend not buying Seagate. Many, many years ago, in the days of MFM hard drives, they were charged and fined for dumping toxic chemicals into a river. As a whole, the computer industry creates a lot of extremely toxic waste. Hard drive and microprocessor manufacturing both produce large volumes of highly toxic "stuff". Hopefully someone on Slashdot who knows more about how the biz handles this. It should definetly factor into any responsibly motivated purchasing decision.

Economist Paul Krugman has a relevant column (3)

swm (171547) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137437)

At In praise of cheap labor [mit.edu] , MIT Economist Paul Krugman [mit.edu] argues, "Bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all..."

Bill Gates (4)

Shaheen (313) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137438)

As we all know, Bill Gates is the devil.

However, he's certainly a generous devil. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has repeatedly received donations from Gates (and other benefactors), towards advancement in many medicinal and health fields - including hunger, cancer, and others.

Recently, Gates has donated:

  • March, 2000 - $133 million towards people being able to receive health benefits of the advancements in pharmaceuticals
  • October, 1999 - $7.7 million towards New York State public libraries for internet access and technical training/information
  • September, 1999 - $1 billion for the Gates Millenium Scholarships to pay for 1,000 college students' tuition, room, and board


I could go further back, but you can look it all up for yourself at New.C om [cnet.com]

support your local mom&pop shop (4)

Ricdude (4163) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137439)

Keep the money local to your area, and out of the pockets of the big corporation CEOs, whenever possible. There are a few local people I buy parts from, and I've assembled all my machines from their available supplies. It costs a little more if you build something from scratch, but for upgrading it's usually a good deal. Their prices are pretty low, and if something breaks, I can yell at someone's face if I need to. Never underestimate the power of face-to-face contact when dealing with product returns.

Re:Depends on the company, mostly (4)

Ricdude (4163) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137440)

Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft is probably actualy nice to many of its employees. It is under such scrutiny that it can't
afford not to. However, some of the less popular hardware companies (AOPen, and the other really small and unheard of ones
that you can't find at Best Buy) probably aren't as benevolent.


What are you smoking, and where do I get some? Really, have you already forgotten the efforts of Microsoft to abolish time and a half overtime for their hourly contract employees? When they tried to get the state of Washington to exclude "information tech" workers wholesale from that particular benefit?


Please read a little from http://www.vcnet.com/bms/ before attempting to pass this off again.

Re:Social responsibilty (4)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137441)

And, of course, Windows 2000 will include real-time disk defragging purchased from Diskeeper, which is one of the many Scientologist "front" organizations that contribute their earnings directly back to the mother cult.

Novell is heavily, though only quasi-officially, involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - but the Mormons, unlike the Scientologists, are not considered to be dangerous criminal organizations by several nations.

Do a search at your favorite engine for "dianetics+scientology+criminal". On Alta Vista [altavista.com] , you'll get 114 web pages devoted to slamming Scientology and their practices. Look for German language sites and you'll probably find even more!

"Social Responsibility" implies not supporting terrorists or exclusionist religions, in my book.

--Charlie
"I think I should GAIN karma for baiting Xians"

Re:Who Really Cares?? (5)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137446)

It doesnt matter.Im not going to buy a Pentium III instead of an Athlon because intel uses a less polutive fab or something.Is it fast?Stable?The epitome of PC power?Thats why I buy a product.
Ah, nothing like short-term short-sighted thinking.

Tell me, how much good does having the epitome of PC power do you when you're dying of cancer caused by the toxins released during fabrication of your CPU?

I like powerful CPUs. I also like being able to breathe the atmosphere. So if manufacturer A is doing a better job of keeping his toxins to himself than manufacturer B, it's in my selfish best interest to purchase from A.

If you don't like to think of it as "social responsibility", think of it as "long term global thinking".

Social responsibilty (5)

mr (88570) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137448)

Depends on the metrics you use.

Apple has had issues in the past WRT the number of african americans in management

Here on /., Micro$oft is disliked for the quality of the code they sell. (think if the stuff worked.)

Digital (now part of Compaq) is rarely given credit for their creation and then NOT getting patents on the citrus replacement for freon solvents.

And Ray Norda gets no credit for his settling the BSD/AT&T lawsuit. (a social issue of importance to the BSD community/OpenSource software)

The simplest metric would be to get the finationals from the companies and see what they list as charties, then do a %age. But what is important to you, say a greenpeace donation, is not important to others (say replacing freon)

Depends on the company, mostly (5)

bonzoesc (155812) | more than 14 years ago | (#1137450)

Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft is probably actualy nice to many of its employees. It is under such scrutiny that it can't afford not to. However, some of the less popular hardware companies (AOPen, and the other really small and unheard of ones that you can't find at Best Buy) probably aren't as benevolent.

As software programmers go, they have to be nice or they'll all leave, due to the fact that the demand for software programmers is higher than the supply.

The point being, overseas labor allows you to disregard your employees more than if the labor was here. Also, the jobs that require a computer are also going to require an employer to be more benevolent. Oddly enough, there are probably more problems with Asian physical labor than American programming jobs. How would you like to spend all day lining up the same two pins on a resistor to the same two holes on your board. How would you like to spend all week at it? Aren't you glad you get to use a computer at work/school?

"Assume the worst about people, and you'll generally be correct"

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