How Our Smartphones, Tablets and Laptops are Linked to Corruption and Civil Unrest
Sometime around 2008, a critical mass of human rights groups and American lawmakers started asking a crucial question: What about the minerals? What if Congo’s mineral trade could be cleaned up and the rebels shut down? A “blood diamonds” campaign in the late 1990s had exposed how the West African diamond trade was funding rebellions on that side of Africa. What about a similar conflict-minerals campaign for Congo?
America took the lead on making an effective change in mining for any conflict materials and on July 21, 2010, President Barak Obama signed the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill that included a special section on conflict minerals. The law called for publicly listed American companies to disclose whether any of their products included minerals from mines controlled by armed groups in or around Congo. Though Dodd-Frank did not explicitly ban corporations from using Congo’s conflict minerals, it made big companies worry about being linked with what is arguably the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
Many leading electronic companies, including Intel, Motorola and HP, had already taken action to understand where the materials were coming from to fuel their products and how they could improve their supply chain. Since the law went into effect, many other companies, but not all, have also made progress auditing their supply chains, according to the Enough Project, an American nonprofit that ranks major company efforts to create a clean minerals trade.
This story makes me look at my smartphone and laptop in a different way. It may also cause more people to doubt claims that electronic media is “green” compared to other alternatives, such as print and paper.
In the end, we all need to challenge ourselves to learn more about the products we use every day. This means purchasing products from companies that lead the way in sustainability and are making efforts to improve their performance and supply chain, whether it is print, paper or electronic devices.