February 27, 2012, by Maggie

Is there blood in your mobile?

Our annual film series Doing the Business opened with a striking documentary investigating the use of conflict minerals in the electronics industry supply chain.

Following the screening Professor Jeremy Moon opened the discussion by outlining three key questions:

Who is responsible for the problems that we witnessed in the Democratic Republic of Congo?  One of world’s richest countries by mineral wealth yet one of the poorest by GDP per capita?  There is the legacy of tyranny and a slave economy; colonialism; de-colonisation and authority vacuums. There is now no stable or authoritative government administration and the mining industry in DRC is evidently corrupt.

Why was Nokia singled by the film maker when it doesn’t own or operate the mine?  Why was Nokia so reluctant to engage with the film makers and why did their response seem so inadequate?  They are considered to be leaders in CSR – and are one of the biggest mobile phone operators in the world.

What are the solutions when there seems to be no alternative ‘conflict free’ mobile phone.  Could the purchasng power of a company of this scale, and a requirement for supply chain transparency exert the pressure that is needed? Multi stakeholder initiatives are underway and covered in the documentary but there is clearly frustration at the pace of change.

The audience raised further interesting comments and questions:

  • Frustration with the nature of this documentary form, that some see as sensationalist and offering no real solution.  Those attending questioned whether the film had led to any real change?
  • Questioning the ethics and intrusive nature of the filming undertaken – particularly in the Bisie community and mine.
  • Underlining the role that individuals can play in raising awareness and instigating change.
  • Raising the question of consumerism and the planned obsolescence of electronic equipment, and the impact this has on the demand for resources.
  • Discussing the role of African Nations in bringing about change – and highlighting the absence of this in the movie.  It was thought that Africa was presented as corrupt and lacking in authority and institutional strength.

 More information and relevant campaigns:

The industry response:
This is led by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition® (EICC®) for more information see www.gesi.org or www.eicc.info

The UK Government:

Action, information and campaigns:
http://www.congomines.org (french language site)

The UN has reported some progress since the Dodd-Frank act was passed in 2011: http://www.sec.gov/comments/s7-40-10/s74010-346.pdf

By Maggie Royston, Business Development & Centre Manager of the ICCSR, Nottingham University Business School.

Image courtesy of Broadway 



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