Just recently Nintendo released its corporate social responsibility report; there were various positives in its various policies, albeit there is always room for improvement. One area that's tackled, in manufacturing, is the sourcing of key resources with the desire to avoid 'conflict minerals' from mines and smelters that fund militias and lead to crime and human rights abuses.
GamesIndustry.biz has published its annual report assessing this area, and also the records of major technology companies including Nintendo. There's a lot of interesting detail on the background of the problem, the legislation in the US and Europe to counter it, and the general trends and progress being made. Companies make disclosures each year, with tech companies typically being "quite good" compared to some other industries.
We encourage you to read the report (linked above and at the end of this article), as it gives the key information to help understand the issue.
With regards to Nintendo's status, in particular, it's technically doing very well in terms of not sourcing conflict minerals for its manufacturing. However, there's a major catch to that assessment, as Nintendo is achieving an impressive level of compliance by simply avoiding countries where there are challenges and extra audit work required.
This year, Nintendo once again saw a 100% response rate from its suppliers, and 100% of the 266 SORs (smelters and refiners) in the chain were conformant. These aren't just 3TG (tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold) smelters, either, as the list included 11 conformant cobalt smelters as well.
That's laudable, but Nintendo appears to be one of the companies that achieves its conformant figures by cutting entire countries out of its supply chain, even if the SORs there are certified by an industry-standard audit.
...Nintendo published a list of its 266 SORs and their locations. We found just one — a tin smelter in Rwanda — from one of the Dodd-Frank Act's Covered Countries. None were located in the European Union's list of CAHRAs (Conflict-Affected and High Risk Areas).
In summary and plain terms, Nintendo's manufacturing - and the products we buy - don't have conflict minerals in their production. Yet Nintendo is achieving this, arguably, the wrong way, by simply avoiding countries with risk and conflict mineral issues. The ideal approach (which is followed by some companies) is to source from certified suppliers in 'conflict-affected' areas, supporting their industry while avoiding inadvertent contributions to militias and criminal groups.
Nintendo, ultimately, has taken a simpler route to avoiding the deeper challenges of the issue. It is giving peace of mind to consumers in the sense that its products aren't made with conflict minerals, but it is also failing to contribute to improving the issue in affected countries.
That seems to be the current state of play from a Nintendo perspective; here's hoping for continual improvements across the industry in the coming years.