Like other activists who emailed the 21 largest electronics companies to urge them to sign the Conflict Minerals Pledge, I recently received a couple of responses, one from Phillips and another from Nintendo.
The Phillips reply is broadly representative of how the electronics industry has responded to this issue. They “share the concern regarding poor social and environmental practices within the metals supply chains and consider mining activities that fuel conflict unacceptable.” Phillips, like many other companies, receives declarations from its suppliers that they do not source tantalum (one of the 3T minerals, sometimes known as “coltan”) from the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, it does not explain how it verifies these declarations.
Phillips also cites its work as part of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition, or EICC, an industry association working on corporate responsibility. The EICC is engaged in some important work on this issue, developing a transparency model for the supply chains for tin and tantalum. But it will be up to individual companies to show leadership and take the steps necessary to assure the public that their products are conflict-free. Furthermore, for companies to actually feel the pressure that will push them in this direction, they’re going to need to receive a lot more emails from individual consumers.
Nintendo’s response is, well, slightly less detailed.
“On behalf of Nintendo I appreciate the opportunity to respond and thank you for your patience. Nintendo does not purchase any metals as raw materials. As a remote purchaser that buys finished components made from many materials, Nintendo requires its suppliers to comply with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Procurement Guidelines, which stipulate suppliers comply with applicable laws, have respect for human rights and conduct their business in an appropriate and fair manner.”
I would explain the shortcomings of this response, but activist Winter Miller does it so much better:
Dear Ms. Skar,
Can you provide proof that your vendors are csb compliant? It’s easy for a large company to say "we personally treat our vendors according to fair practice, fair trade or human rights compliance, but if you turn a blind eye to how your vendors behave in-country, you’re not actually complying with csb, you’re shirking your responsibility and providing fraudulent claims to your consumers. I will not purchase your product for myself or for anyone else until you prove total compliance.
Enough is working on detailed responses to all of the electronics companies we’ve contacted and is engaging with those that are responsive. But for this effort to really take off, we are going to need many more folks like Winter demanding that these companies take the next step. Add your voice to the movement by signing the Conflict Minerals Pledge. To learn more about how conflict minerals are fueling the deadliest conflict in the world, visit Enough’s RAISE Hope for Congo special page.