As Apple celebrates the release of the new IPhone 7 and amidst all the exciting things happening in the technology industry, something else remarkable is occurring. Apple is forging a path and taking key steps towards responsible sourcing of resources used in their electronic products. The tech firm is doing this by combating the deadly trade of “conflict minerals”.
Four minerals used in electronics – gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten- have funded and contributed to an ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, hence the term “conflict minerals”. Powering your electronics often comes at a price; over 5.4 million civilians have died in the conflict by mining these minerals since 1994. Workers are often hired at gunpoint and given no choice but to work in the worst conditions while given little to no pay.
The good news is there is much being done to end the conflict. In 2010 congress passed Section 1502 of the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This act requires companies to identify where the minerals used in their products come from. Companies are now being held accountable for making sure that their product materials are not involved in human rights abuses.
Thousands of businesses were affected by this bill. In May of 2016, Apple was among the first to issue a progress report highlighting their commitment to ensuring that the minerals used in their products do not finance armed conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or anywhere else in the world.
Many other companies such as Intel, Signet Jewelers and Ford have joined this effort of responsible sourcing and are providing transparent reports of where product materials originate. Despite these great strides by large corporations, human rights abuses continue in Africa and across the globe signaling there is still much work to be done.
DRC’s next-door-neighbor, Sudan, faces similar conflicts. Last week, The Sentry, an initiative of The Enough Project, filed a report of a two-year investigation into South Sudan’s war economy and its links to a network of international facilitators that includes mining and electronic companies. George Clooney led the press conference, “War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the looting and destruction in South Sudan.” Using the tools of financial pressure such as refraining from buying products that source “conflict minerals”, The Sentry’s report seeks to unveil innovative ways into countering mass atrocities.
Conflict-Free Campus Initiative (CFCI) is also focusing on using the tools of financial pressure by directly targeting the purchasing of technology on college campuses. Led by college students, CFCI’s aim is to put pressure on university officials to buy electronics that are not made with “conflict minerals”. CFCI is also a branch of the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign, and STAND – the student-led movement to end mass atrocities. Together these organizations seek to hold the perpetrators and financiers of mass violence responsible for their abuses of human rights