The Enough Project released a new report, showing the progress many tech companies have made in the last two years to be more accountable about sourcing certain precious metals used in their gadgets from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo – or what most advocates call “conflict minerals.”
…Intel ranked highest on the Enough Project’s list with a score of 60, meaning it has taken 60% of the steps recommended by the group to ensure it is responsibly tracking conflict minerals. That’s up from a score of 24 in 2010. Apple and Microsoft both scored 38, up from 13 and 15, respectively. Nokia scored 35, up from 19. IBM, Sony, LG and Samsung received scores of 27. Three of those companies had received scores lower than 10 in the previous Enough Project ranking.
The report says there is still much to be done, however.
“Despite the progress made in the past year by both governments and industry, a long road still lies ahead,” the group says in its report, titled “Taking Conflict Out of Consumer Gadgets.” “Exploitation of Congo’s mineral resources continues to exacerbate conflict and instability on the ground and consumers are still largely in the dark as to whether or not their products are conflict free…
Nintendo, Canon, Nikon, Sharp and HTC received lower rankings. As a matter of fact, Nintendo has a rank of zero because it has apparently taken no steps to address the problem within its manufacturing process.
The minerals in question – gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten – are largely mined in the DRC, which is a major contributor to the ongoing war there that has killed millions of Congolese people. According to Free the Slaves, armed militias have made money from mining these minerals by holding workers at gunpoint and forcing them to work for very little or sometimes no compensation.
An auditing system for smelters and a certification system is in the process of being developed to help companies truly identify conflict-free minerals. A couple of years ago the U.S. Congress created a rule within a bill during the financial crisis – Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) – requiring companies to disclose if they are using conflict minerals in their products. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are suppose to vote on this rule on August 22. There is evidence that the Dodd-Frank Act has helped to decrease the conflict mineral flow. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is contesting that implementing this rule will be too costly and complex.
Here are the key words the report concludes with:
…It will take a holistic effort by multiple governments and industries to regulate the flow of illegal conflict minerals. The driver of that effort must remain the demand of the conscious consumer…
There are only so many things governments can do, so this is why consumers need to not only be aware of how their electronics are being made, but also holding tech companies accountable and demand better. Consumers need to be aware of the complete life cycle of their electronics, such as the grave workers’ rights problems of manufacturing products in Foxconn factories. For the past year Global Wire Associates has been running the “Re-Charge E-waste” awareness campaign to educate the public about the problems of end-of-life electronics. Regarding conflict minerals, a great way to get more in-depth information is from the film Blood in the Mobile, which a preview is featured above. While technology is a wonderful thing, we also need to stay focused on how the politics of technology affects the lives of others.