Guest blogger Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law.
Sometimes the world works in mysterious ways. We wind up doing the right thing without even realizing it.
I use a notebook computer made by Acer. I actually have two, one that I keep at home and one that I carry around with me every day to meetings, classes, and occasionally
to Starbucks. I didn’t even realize when I bought them that Acer is ranked fairly high on the Enough Project's electronic scoring system. The Enough Project's ranks the world’s leading companies that manufacture small electronics – phones, cameras, computers, printers, chips, etc. These companies all buy minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo to use in their products.
Some companies, like Acer, Intel, HP, and Philips, are ranked in the Enough Project's green zone because they have begun tracing their supply chains back to the source of the minerals used in their products. The companies in green are helping to reduce the violence in Congo stemming from access to the mineral wealth under the ground. Other companies, like Canon and Nintendo, aren’t on board with these efforts and they’re in the red zone. These companies have done almost nothing to improve their supply chain management.. Companies in the middle, in the yellow zone, like IBM, Toshiba, and Sony, are moving in the right direction but could do more.
Acer’s green zone ranking means that the company “takes steps to audit their supply chains, pushes for legislation, exercises leadership in industry-wide efforts, and helps the Democratic Republic of Congo develop a clean trade.”
By accident, I bought a product that reflects my values.
I care a great deal about the violence being perpetrated in Congo, especially about the violence directed towards women and girls. I care that nearly 6 million people in Congo have been killed since 1996 in the worst violence since World War II and that most people don’t know about it. I care that every one of us can make a small difference in this conflict by buying our electronics from companies that are exercising leadership on this issue.
This is what the Enough Project's Conflict-Free Initiative is all about: buying responsibly. Individuals and leaders at colleges, cities, states, and organizations are looking at the company rankings and making purchase decisions in line with their values.
More than a hundred colleges and universities around the country have agreed to support a ‘conflict-free resolution’ to encourage electronics purchasing from those green-lighted companies and to engage in positive ways with those companies that aren’t yet on board. I work at William Mitchell College of Law. Last week, our student body signed onto this resolution with a strong show of support and we look forward to administrative support soon.
My home state of Minnesota, I’m very proud to say, does nearly all of its business with Dell, HP, Apple, and others near the top of the list. And like me, the people making these multi-million-dollar purchasing decisions were doing so without even knowing about the conflict-free initiative or which companies were committed to being a part of the solution in eastern Congo.
World Without Genocide has been raising awareness about the crisis in Congo for several years. We've held events at which we've shown films about Congo, brought in experts from the Enough Project, and invited refugees from Congo to share their stories. We've advocated for support for the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative at William Mitchell College of Law and at the University of Minnesota. We worked with the City of Edina Human Rights and Relations Commission to achieve passage of a conflict-free resolution for that city. At our Summer Institute for High School Students in 2012, John Bagwell, the Enough Project's Outreach Director, came to Minnesota and inspired our students to take action at their schools and cities.
The moral of the story is that many companies do well in business because they do good. Their values affect how they do business in every way. Let’s support those companies, and let’s also reach out to the others and urge them to become part of this important effort. Our individual actions make a difference and together we can challenge the violence in Congo.