Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Maxwell T. Boykoff

Second Advisor

Liam C. Downey

Third Advisor

Benjamin S. Hale


Apple Inc. is perceived as a remarkably socially and environmentally responsible multinational electronics corporation. Yet, Apple's business practices, such as subcontracting a significant portion of its manufacturing processes to foreign funded enterprises in China, have been found to be seriously and persistently detrimental to humans and the environment. The purpose of this thesis is thus to analyze how Apple successfully portrays itself as a socially and environmentally conscious firm even as its business practices allow, normalize, and exacerbate the electronics crisis. Using Downey and Strife's (2010) Inequality, Democracy and the Environment model, and O'Connor's (1998) ecological Marxist interpretation of the 'two contradictions of capitalism,' I will argue that Apple actively manipulates organizational, institutional and network based mechanisms to accumulate capital and shift attention away from its role in human and environmental harm, thus maintaining an "especially socially responsible" image even as it degrades social and environmental wellbeing.