One of the most frequent critiques of our effort to get electronics companies to deal with Congo’s conflict minerals is that amid a global recession, companies can’t afford to invest in cleaning up their supply chains. With that in mind, Apple’s announcement of their best non-holiday quarter ever—profits up 15 percent, with a net income of $1.23 billion—suggests that there is no shortage of resources that an industry leader like Apple might put toward developing the means to ensure that its products are conflict-free. Apple sold 5.2 million iPhones from April to June this year, a number close to, but still short of the 5.4 million people that have died as a result of the conflict in Congo.
A growing number of voices —from Congolese clergy to American rock stars — are demanding that companies take control of their supply chains to ensure they do not finance atrocities in eastern Congo. In response, some of the companies that have previously been accused of trading conflict minerals have begun to work on improving the transparency of the trade, but they’re still passing the buck when it comes to paying for the costs. Every company in the supply chain, from the mines all the way to major electronics corporations, has a responsibility to help put such plans into action and actually make a difference on the ground in Congo. Apple’s profits statements show beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the industry leader in the world of electronics. By investing just a fraction of those profits in a sustainable solution to conflict minerals, they could demonstrate what genuine leadership is all about.