During his January 27 unveiling of the new iPad, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that his company had just sold its 250 millionth iPod. I own one of those – maybe you do, too.
If every consumer-electronics purchase is like a vote, that’s 250 million voices saying: “Yes, I’m OK with that” – with everything it took to put that device in my hand.
Such thoughts were bursting like flashbulbs in my mind during the conflict minerals session by Enough’s John Prendergast at the Pledge2Protect conference in November. He, along with human rights lawyer Sylvie Maunga Mbanga and speaker/poet Omékongo Dibinga, powerfully illuminated the connection between our choices and the horrific sexual violence ensnaring the women and girls of eastern Congo.
If I buy an iPhone or iMac – without assurance that its mineral components are conflict-free – am I not an “active bystander” to that human devastation?
It’s deeply conflicting to consider that the same tools powering my advocacy could also be contributing to Congo’s suffering. So, what to do when faced with an impending Apple purchase?
Recalling Prendergast’s charge to use our voices as consumers, I started writing. I directed individual letters to Apple image- and decision-makers: board of directors, senior management, public relations staff, advertising spokesmen, and their publicists.
I asked Apple to:
1) Step forward as the leader in verifiably conflict-free products
2) Sign the Conflict Minerals Pledge
3) Design the industry-standard conflict-free icon
I welcome you to customize these tools – sample letter, unique spokesmen/publicist appeals, and mailing list – to join the Apple letter-writing campaign. Voice your concerns about the corporate ethics of the electronics companies supported by your purchases.
While awaiting Apple’s reply, I’m thrilled to have another way to impact conflict minerals with Advocacy Days, February 15-19. During the Presidents Day recess, U.S. representatives will be back in our home districts – a timely opportunity to say, face-to-face, how important it is that he or she co-sponsors the Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009 (H.R. 4128). If made into law, it would help create the transparency we need to choose conflict-free electronics.
Please join me for Advocacy Days and represent your part of the story. You’ll find great advocacy tools and details about the event at Raise Hope for Congo.
Jenni Parmalee is the director of the Sheltering Tree Project.