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Congo Calling's Bandi Mbubi Urges Gamers To Press Nintendo Into Using Conflict-Free Materials In Its Consoles

Posted by Andy Robertson

Apple shames unethical mineral suppliers, but will Nintendo do the same?

Progress isn't always a good thing. New consoles, gadgets and services can hold a hidden price which goes way beyond what we pay at retail. The minerals that are used to create much of our technology are often obtained from conflict-ridden parts of the world — such as the Democratic Republic of Congo — where profits potentially fund guns, crime and war.

Apple has started to publicise which of its suppliers may be sourcing minerals from conflict zones. Their list details 104 suppliers that were unverified for compliance with ethical guidelines, helping to put pressure on them to comply. It also highlights 59 smelters that were compliant.

Technology and Gaming Console firms are being pressured by human rights groups to influence suppliers to improve their ethics.
"The ethical sourcing of minerals is an important part of our mission to ensure safe and fair working conditions," Apple wrote in its annual Supplier Responsibility Report. "In January 2014 we confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors, and we're pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources."

Bandi Mbubi, director of Congo Calling — a UK-based campaign group calling for greater transparency in the sourcing of minerals — told the BBC that Apple's announcement was to be applauded. "What we want is the whole industry to start transforming the way they do their business," he said. "The way Apple has gone, even though it is not 100%, is something that is quite encouraging."

Talking to Family Gamer TV recently on the topic of conflict minerals in games consoles, Mbubi suggested some positive action Nintendo gamers can take. "If you have a Nintendo console you can write to them to say I want you to only buy conflict-free minerals," he said. "Then [Nintendo] will know that their consumers only want them to use conflict-free materials. The more people that write to their technology company, the better.”

The interview took place shortly after Mbubi’s emotionally charged TEDxExeter talk that called for the audience to reassess how they chose technology. Unusually though, this was not a plea for abstinence from the tainted tech, but rather a call to use it as a part of the solution and get the message out about conflict minerals.

Intel also recently announced that it wouldn’t use conflict minerals in its microprocessors. It seems likely that companies like Nintendo (and Microsoft and Sony) will also have something to say on the matter as a law passed in 2010 gave companies until May 2014 to start reporting the source of its raw materials. Mr Mbubi told the BBC that he hoped the moves from Apple and Intel would spark a race for other technology companies to show they too were taking action.

What are your feelings on this topic? Should consumers have to put pressure on companies like Nintendo to ensure that the suppliers they use are sourcing material ethnically, or should these massive firms be trusted to do the right thing? Have you ever boycotted a manufacturer because of their track record in this. or any other ethical field? Let us know by posting a comment.

Image credit: The UN Refugee Agency

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User Comments (30)

Swiket

#1

Swiket said:

The fact that the Wii U has suffering and death in its production process really adds to its mystique IMO.

Kyloctopus

#2

Kyloctopus said:

Very interesting I would hope Nintendo hasn't done that, but large companies are desperate for money, and they have been accused for such before.
The last thing I want to be doing is benefiting myself, at the cost of someone's life.
It's also very great that there are very massive companies that do care about these ethical issues. As much as you might dislike Apple, you have to appreciate the actions they have took part in to make our world a better place.

Nintenjoe64

#3

Nintenjoe64 said:

I sometimes wonder if the hate for Nintendo in the media was because of this but nobody ever calls them out for it so I'd imagine they just don't realise there were questions marks over where they got their minerals from. Hopefully Nintendo follows suit and/or the world agrees to make companies more transparent in these matters.

cookiex

#4

cookiex said:

@Nintenjoe64

Congo Calling isn't singling Nintendo out. All they say is that Nintendo as well as other tech giants like Sony, Microsoft, Samsung etc. should follow Apple in reporting stuff like this and not purchase minerals from conflict-ridden areas where the profits could potentially fund warfare.

And most gamers don't know/care about issues like this so the Nintendo "hate" has no root in this (otherwise they'd call out Sony, Microsoft and other tech giants as well).

WiiULoveSquid

#5

WiiULoveSquid said:

Many corporation's websites have a statement of assurance that they are responsible in their product making. I really like the idea of a responsibility report of their specific sources/manufacturing being made into law to show more evidence and context behind the claims.

Artwark

#6

Artwark said:

just sent a request from Nintendo.

But I don't get one thing though. Doesn't Nintendo use their own resources to make their own systems except in rare cases like Sony's music chip for SNES and all?

cookiex

#9

cookiex said:

@Artwark

Nintendo like every other tech business doesn't manufacture their hardware components all on their own. I don't know where you got that idea from.

jedisquidward

#11

jedisquidward said:

@Smug43 From Cookiex:
Congo Calling isn't singling Nintendo out. All they say is that Nintendo as well as other tech giants like Sony, Microsoft, Samsung etc. should follow Apple in reporting stuff like this and not purchase minerals from conflict-ridden areas where the profits could potentially fund warfare.
And most gamers don't know/care about issues like this so the Nintendo "hate" has no root in this (otherwise they'd call out Sony, Microsoft and other tech giants as well).

hamae

#12

hamae said:

Tech companies shall step up and help fighting this unfair trade. But why does this Bandi guy not campaigning directly against the weapon companies and countries that supply weapons to Congo (& other African countries)?

ThumperUK

#14

ThumperUK said:

Apple is being held up as a beacon of responsibility? They should address the high suicide rates in the factories that make ipads, and also reduce the toxic materials used in their manufacture. Google 'Apple suicides'. All companies need to address these just as much as naming conflcts (but still buying the minerals).

Platypus101

#15

Platypus101 said:

@ThumperUK really, apple hate when they're turning around? Why don't you research (not just google the first three thinks you see) e-waste? You will see that as first world societies, we create disasters in third world countries. This has been happening far longer than apple has been a major player in the electronics biz...in those videos you will see young boys, pregnant mothers and the elderly, awash in lethal chemicals trying to strip the precious metals off circuit boards and the like. Save your hate... There are bigger fish out there (and many a time we are enabling them). 'Nuff said.

Platypus101

#16

Platypus101 said:

@hamae ahem.... As a citizen of one of the many countries that supply weapons to those countries, I can honestly state that not a single important person (that could make a change) would do a thing about it. Weapons are big business, look at all the military games that are successful. :(

michaelshellman

#18

michaelshellman said:

im with thumperuk i was going to say the same. ill hold my applause for when they make the sacrifice to provide dignity to the human condition in there work place. come on everybody be like apple except for the part were everybody who works for them wants to kill them selves. if you work hard to make a company what it is you deserve enough to think of your self as a successful worth living being. to think you can work honest and hard to make a company big and successful and wish to throw yourself out of a window is insane.those conditions would have to be brutal to even consider. now they do something that your supposed to do and want to wear the robes of an idle?, na if im hungry but dieing of thirst id rather have my glass of water.

Senario

#20

Senario said:

I feel heartless for saying this but...I just want to play games. I could care less about where the materials come from. After all, we all have clothes or electronics made for dirt cheap in sweatshops. It would be silly to say that this is wrong but the cheap clothing or products you buy is ok.

ninjakid4

#21

ninjakid4 said:

I'll just leave Nintendo's report that states they don't use conflict materials here.
http://www.nintendo.co.jp/csr/en/report2013/02_4/index.html

"Nintendo has a clear policy banning the use of conflict minerals* in any of our products. This can be found in the Nintendo CSR Procurement Guidelines. The Business Status Survey is used to confirm that all production partners are in compliance.
In fiscal year 2012, Nintendo issued a questionnaire to its relevant production partners to determine whether they have policies and business practices in place to avoid the use of conflict minerals. This survey was given to the companies among Nintendo's production partners who handle materials that might possibly contain tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold.
In addition, Nintendo conducts on-site inspections with each production partner to discuss the issue of conflict minerals with both supervisors and workers on the manufacturing floor.
Moving forward, Nintendo is committed to working with its production partners to formulate and implement the appropriate measures to ensure that conflict minerals are not used in our products.

*Conflict minerals mean the tungsten, tantalum, tin and gold that are extracted from the conflict-affected regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its nine adjoining countries, and are used as a financial source for armed groups or rebel forces who often commit crimes against humanity."

DarkKirby

#25

DarkKirby said:

1st of all, this is obviously just a publicity stunt by Apple. But the reason doesn't change the result.

But if you care so much, stop using and buying your consoles and other electronics without finding out where the parts come from.

Otherwise stop telling others to fix the problem so you feel less bad.

People always talk about how others should do things to make life better for others but they are not doing anything themselves and sure as heck aren't willing to sacrifice much for it if it came down to it. Someone else should do the sacrificing for them.

ghosto

#26

ghosto said:

Is Apple claiming that no part of their product is made in a NATO country? No wonder Apple products are so expensive, they must harvest all the materials from conflict free outer space.

FireHorsePrime

#28

FireHorsePrime said:

Thanks for posting this. I heard that Nintendo was under the microscope with organizations like Greenpeace, now it's much clearer to be sure. I like his approach that we should use our tech as a means of reaching out and education, not demonizing it. There is a flow to the universe and death is just as much of a part of life. We cannot judge Nintendo, only encourage them to be as gentle and caring about how they obtain their materials as they are about keeping violent or disturbing content out of their games where children are concerned. This is why I love Nintendo games, where anyone, young and old can play. Judging them is the last thing we should do, or summon dark clouds over their products (as another member did at the beginning of this thread). If we are to throw stones, let us throw them at ourselves for what we are doing to our oceans and our environment, because we need petrol belching trucks to deliver organic yogurt to our favorite health food stores. There should be no blame here, only awareness and letting our favorite game company know we care what we hold in our hands.

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