Nintendo’s “Conflict Minerals” Fail
As some of you may know, there are a lot of complicated THINGS that go into making your favorite video game consoles work. It’s not just magic that’s inside there (though, yes, there is plenty of magic). In fact, not only are those THINGS various machines and chips and whatnot, but there are also plenty of (relatively) rare minerals that are used to make the STUFF that makes the THINGS make video games happen.
Facetiousness aside, much of what goes into consoles’ manufacture are “conflict minerals”—minerals like gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten, according to an article on Eurogamer today. And those minerals are mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and done so under significant duress with earned profits going toward further bloodshed in an already troubled region. As the post puts it:
“Armed groups fight to control the mines, and sell the produce to fund the ongoing and bloody Congolese conflict. Since 1996, more than 5.4 million lives have been lost to the conflict, and a further 2 million people displaced.”
Needless to say, this is a problem for the manufacturers of high tech goods that need these minerals for demanding Western audiences. To try and raise awareness of the issue, the Enough Project has been tracking companies’ efforts to reduce and/or eliminate these minerals from their products so as to move toward making “conflict free” consumer goods. Yesterday, the project published a report that tracked many tech companies since 2010, with some startling results.
On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being “conflict free,” Sony scored a dismal 27, while Microsoft and Apple tied for 38.
Nintendo scored a zero.
“…despite growing public awareness about this issue and significant industry movement, Nintendo has made no known effort to trace or audit its supply chain.”
The Eurogamer post also cites a CNN article, in which Enough’s policy analyst Sasha Lezhnev discussed Nintendo’s total failure in this regard:
“Nintendo is, I believe, the only company that has basically refused to acknowledge the issue or demonstrate they are making any sort of effort on it. And this is despite a good two years of trying to get in contact with them.”
The company issued a statement to CNN in response to their inquiries:
“[Nintendo] outsources the manufacture and assembly of all Nintendo products to our production partners and therefore is not directly involved in the sourcing of raw materials that are ultimately used in our products. We nonetheless take our social responsibilities as a global company very seriously and expect our production partners to do the same.”
It’s easy to ignore some of the issues that surround the creation of our favorite gadgets, especially when we don’t hear much about them. But it’s important to pay attention to the problems to which our love of consumption can inadvertently contribute. Back in January, the industry was shocked awake when workers at a Foxconn factory that manufactured Microsoft’s Xbox 360 consoled threatened mass suicide over poor working conditions and lack of compensation. The conflict minerals issue is one that has even less attention devoted to it—so now that this information has come to light, let’s make sure we pay attention and keep petitioning tech manufacturers to make our gadgets as ethically as possible.