computer

Blood-free tin.

The ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi) is making an effort to try and eradicate conflict metals from the tin industry. The extraction of raw materials in many parts of the world funds extreme acts of violence; war crimes, crimes against humanity, mass murder, rape, torture, enslavement, the recruitment of child soldiers, mass abuse and displacement of people.  The complexity of manufacturing modern products means that each item has most likely traveled around the globe making many stops along the way.  This makes it harder for companies to know exactly what happened at each stop and the effect their product has had on human beings along the way.

ITRI is a non-profit organization that represents tin miners and smelters, created to promote a positive image of the tin industry and ensure its best interests are represented. The ITSCi was designed to investigate the performance of the tin industry and ensure a higher standard of care that would trace the tin from the mine to the smelter, much like the Kimberly Process does for diamonds.

July 2009 saw the implementation of ITSCi Phase 1, a comprehensive due diligence plan for tin extracted in the DR Congo. Phase 2 which just began to begin to track and provide more precise sourcing locations for tin mined in eastern DRC. Pilot mines sites in North and South Kivu have been chosen to integrate into the trading scheme, with expectations of expansion after the first six months across 4 provinces of the DRC (North and South Kivu, Maniema, and Katanga). It’s a start, but nearly not enough to ensure the eradication of conflict tin in the marketplace.

This pilot supply chain project is being eyed by both the Tantalum and Niobuim Information Center (TIC) who eventually intend to include coltan in the study. Hopefully other extractive industries will soon follow and begin take their own initiatives to stop funding violence. The vagueness within the corporate policies and laws and lack of investigation and enforcement capabilities to regulate the laws, leave the extractive industries seemingly decades away from evoking true change in practices. Long-term secure funding and precise laws is necessary to ensure this project goes from pilot to change in real practice. Currently several major corporations are contributing the $600K necessary to run the ITSCi pilot. Considering the profit made from products using tin in the past year, this $600K is merely a drop in the bucket. More money is immediately needed from these companies to hire enough investigators, regulators and enforcers to stop funding violence.

You can help stop the violence. Speak out. The next time you buy a product, think about where it has come from. Write, phone, email and ask the company if they have a truly ethical purchasing policy that includes safeguards against incorporating conflict resources into their product line. Ask your government to enact laws that would enforce its companies to maintain higher human rights standards, even when operating overseas. The market creates the demand, so let’s demand that they provide us with a truly ethical choice.

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HP is trying.

It’s been almost two years that I have been pushing different computer companies to better track their supply chains in an effort to stop the flow of money into conflict zones. My pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

While I can’t entirely endorse any of the companies’ efforts, since I feel they still fall short of being fully responsible, I feel that Hewlett Packard (HP) is at least trying to change and is the closest to actually doing so. My general feeling on these companies is that they should have full control over their supply line, know whether any stops along the way are human rights abusing and stop the abuse if it is found if they truly want to consider themselves an “ethical” company. If they find abuse, they can choose to ask that supplier to stop the abuse or they have the choice to switch to another supplier. Either way, they have control over this aspect. If the supplier won’t let them in to inspect for abuse, then switch supplier. Simple. It’s fairly black and white with me when it comes to this. We, as consumers, don’t have this choice to the same extent. We don’t know who supplies which company without thorough research, and have a difficult time trying to ascertain the truth from the companies even with thorough research. They say, buyer beware, but when we see “ethical” policies on their website, we assume that it’s the truth. Sadly, in most cases I have found, it is not anywhere near the truth.

Hewlett Packard has started auditing its supply chain and making as much information on those audits available as possible. They have listed the majority of their suppliers in an effort to be more transparent. They have made voluntary promises to investigate their supply chain more closely. They claim to unconditionally support human rights on their web site. They have donated money and equipment to the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative in an effort to track the tin for their products in the DR Congo. They have also voluntarily joined on to the GeSI Supply Chain Initiative. These efforts haven’t gone completely unnoticed. HP was named #1 Best Corporate Citizen by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. It has been written up repeatedly as an “ethical” company.

The reality though, is still kind of sad. The ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative received only $600,000 for the first six months of its supply chain project. Seems like a lot of money, right? While, before you start applauding these companies for this donation, you must realize that HP, Analog Devices, Apple, Cabot Supermetals, Dell, EMC, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, Motorola Foundation, Nokia, Philips, RIM, Sony, Talison, Telefonica, S.A. Western Digital and Xerox collaboratively donated this money and that within that list sit several companies who are making millions upon millions each year on these tainted supplies while already claiming corporate social responsibility.  The $600K donation works out to less than $40K per company for this initiative. Consider that a company like HP spends approximately $235 million per month on research and development of new products, you think they could invest a little more in ensuring human rights are respected in the making of their supposedly “ethical” product line. And before you commend them on reaching the top of Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “Best Corporate Citizens”, realize that the Coca Cola Co. (accused of massive worldwide crimes, see also here) also tops the list for responsibility.

What it appears like to me is companies using bottom line donations to promote their image, while ignoring a larger problem in an effort to maximize their own profits. Profits should not come before people. You want to be ethical in your product line? Here’s a plan for you. Spend the money, send out auditors to each of your suppliers and their suppliers and their suppliers. Keep them there for (at least) the next year and have them report on each and every violation against human rights. If these violations start to add up, move to another supplier who can agree to your terms. I’m sure there are many other suppliers waiting in the wings wishing on contracts with a massive corporation that would be willing to take some more responsible measures to secure that contract. This is a simplification, obviously it would be slightly more complicated, but there is as far as I can see no real reason they can’t take full responsibility except for monetary and competition reasons, and frankly, that’s just not good enough. War crimes and crimes against humanity are happening for these products, and that’s not ok.

It makes no sense me to that these companies claim they are unable to control their own product line. They have the control. They just don’t want to lose profits because they do not see the competitive advantage in paying more for human rights protection. A few moments in the media of shining glory after some piddly donation has a similar effect as an actual effort. So why put the effort and money in?

Please HP, live up to your ethical promises. Keep the effort coming, and keep transparent. I want to respect you.

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Where to go from here…

I’ve been incredibly frustrated with the computer industry’s response to my inquiries. I have hit a wall in my research, with little place left to go at this level. I have talked to the people at the companies who are responsible for dealing with human rights inquiries and they have all told me all the information they are willing to give. Their information has left me with many further questions and inquiries into how they are planning to change the problem in the future, and waiting on them to actually implement the changes voluntarily. This could take forever and I’m not willing to wait anymore.

The information they have shared is scary. It’s scary because it makes plain that these abuses are possibly happening in the manufacture of every modern electronics device and possibly far beyond this to include many other metal products that most North Americans use every single day.

Think about this for a moment. How many electronic devices do you have in your home? How many computers, laptops, cameras, cell phones, game consoles, etc. do you own? How many will you go through in the next 5 years? Each of these products has touched war. They have allowed human beings to be slaughtered, raped, enslaved, abused… They have allowed children to be recruited as soldiers, and forced them to grow up with violence all around them. How can any of these companies claim ethical purchasing policies at all? Why are they not responsible for ensuring their own product line is not causing human rights abuses in other parts of the world? Why are they allowed to sidestep legalities for profit? There is something seriously wrong with the world.

Some companies have taken baby steps to change, but everything is so disconnected that it is next to impossible to prove or disprove anything or to allow for complete change overnight.

My new goal has become to go to the higher source. To go to the metal companies that supply the computer and electronics industries with raw materials for manufacture. I think that these have more of a possibility for answers and success. Voluntary cooperation is not going to stop this violence.

I strive for regulation in the manufacture and extraction of raw materials, so that companies and unknowing consumers are not supporting war in another part of the world. There is no reason this type of violence should continue. There is no reason that we should unknowingly be supplying warlords with massive profits or weapons and allowing them to continue their violence. We need to stop fueling them with money and weapons– otherwise we are are partially guilty of the violence. We need to change our own ways, and voice our opinions to the companies and governments responsible.

Genocide is happening, and we are all part of it. The time has come to stop, and it will not happen through peacekeeping or UN efforts alone. This is only responding to the manifestations and not the underlying causes of the violence. YOU need to change. YOU need to become aware. YOU need to speak your mind to the companies and governments who allow this continue. YOU need to be aware that every time you purchase metals, you might be causing death and destruction through your purchases.

It is an uncomfortable thought, I know, but the longer we go on ignoring the problem– the longer it will continue. Please speak out against the abuses in the production of our luxuries and strive to make real change.


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Update on the conflict free-laptop search

So I’m incredibly frustrated.

I have received emails back. After several hours on the phone, getting hung up on and redirected, I am sent some information by email. I have talked to the people whose job it is to secure ethical purchasing (or at least market it) and they are the ones sending the information; so I am hopeful that I will receive answers. I am at this point with several companies.

What they send however, is the same old stock line. I already had most of this information (if not all of it). It is available publicly on their websites, and was already thoroughly researched and looked into– but didn’t answer my questions. In fact, most of my time in this struggle has been spent reading through websites, news, etc. trying to find out the details before I bother calling so that I can ask specific questions once I find who I need to talk to. Digging into sourcing is difficult!

The same stock lines. They don’t seem really willing to give out any more information. I’m sure it must have to clear some board room or get approval first.  Heaven forbid they just tell me the truth (though more than likely, they probably have NO idea what this is themselves). I cannot, in good faith, purchase any of these products at this point. Their claims to me are not enough. Their promise of change in the future is not enough. They might still support human rights abuse. They might still support war. It’s hard to tell the truth.

I’m glad that many advertise themselves as ethical and feel like they are making a real effort to change. Some perhaps are. But most I would suspect, are not. They spew out these fancy claims of responsibility and have NO idea what’s really going on in their own product line. They are taking miniscule steps, and sometimes not even that.

This mess of being disconnected happened over time.  It will take time to fix it, it just won’t happen overnight. I realise this. But with no real regulations in place yet to enforce the “rules” against human rights abuses- don’t expect much to really happen. Some companies may really strive to make change, but many others will do the bare minimum to make themselves more marketable and continue to abuse because it is easier to just do nothing. Where does the abuse stop?

I don’t think there is anyone out there (aside from maybe a few people with some severe mental issues) who would willingly want to commit these abuses with their purchases. But we are often left with little choice, or are led to believe marketing propaganda or ethical claims. So why does this continue to happen?

Admitting you are part of the evil is the first step. This does take courage.  Auditing your suppliers is the next. Taking action to stop the abuses and use non-abusing suppliers is the next step. Incorporating a strategic business policy that will prevent human rights abuses as much as humanly possible– this should be legislated.

I am in the process of making up more detailed questions to send back to the companies, about their continuing abuses and how they are planning to stop it in the future. Hopefully I will get more than the same old stock line this time. Hopefully I will get one step closer to the truth.


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some sort of response– finally. HP

So finally… well after this project was started– I get some sort of real response. Finally my inquiry was directed to possibly the “right” person.  After soo many dead ends, redirections and frustrations– I think I finally talking to who I need to be talking to.

I just got a call back from someone at HP who told me she would send me fuller details on their product line and the steps they are taking and was able to talk to me about their supply line in some detail.

After admitting they aren’t perfect, she explained to me the steps they are taking to ensure conflict free sourcing. Compared to the other companies I have spoken to, these measures are far and above… however, they are not totally ensuring that no conflict resources are in the product line. They are working towards this– but they are still a ways off.

This frustrates me because they have been taking steps towards this direction for some time– voluntarily (because nobody is yet to enforce it)– and are still at the point where they are not in full control or knowledge of their product line. This means to me that the others who haven’t started or are just beginning are WAY WAY off. oh dear.

Thank you HP for finally getting back to me with some kind of answer. I am looking forward to going through the materials once they reach my inbox in my email. I also appreciate that you tell you me you are willing to work with me and your apology for my struggle so far to just get a straight answer from your company. I hope you will take further steps and that you can be a company I can feel confident about in the future.

Please, continue. It is not yet enough– but I am happy to see progress.

I will look over the materials, scruitinize and write further at that point.

I’m glad you finally got back to me HP, but I cannot in good faith buy your product just yet or label it conflict-free.


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My thorough disgust with Acer corporation

I am so incredibly fed up with Acer. They were my first call. They were my first inquiry more than six months ago and after all this time I am still at the point of talking to customer service at the base level because I cannot get beyond it.

I’ve sent SEVERAL emails to Acer corporation over the past 6 months. Some asked about whether or not they had an ethical purchasing policy and what this entails if they do. Some expressed my frustration at the hassle I have faced with their corporation. Assuming I am a potentially buying customer, you think I would be treated with some sort of respect. This has not been my experience.

I first called their phone number as advertised on their website, only to reach an automated message that only offered limited options that did not cover what I was calling for. I pressed “0” to try and speak with an operator– and instead I reached an answering machine. I left a message, several days in a row with my name and phone number asking for a call back. No response. No acknowledgement. Nothing.

I called their sales line because I figured I have a question that relates to me purchasing a product (hopefully in the future), so this is slightly sales related. No luck. It was again an automated service and none of the options applied to me. The best option they listed seemed to be sales, so that’s where I went. After being on the phone, put on hold, transferred several times, I finally reached someone. At this point I was redirected to see their website. I said “I have already seen your website. I have read it thoroughly. I did not get my answers here.” and was then hung up on. How rude.

So I called back and tried the option for customer service instead of sales. I was directed to another department, went on hold for about 10 minutes. Then I was asked for a pin number on an automated service. It told me it couldn’t understand my choice, and so I was redirected to a sales representative. I went on hold again for another 10 minutes.

I tried to talk to someone here about the questions I had and expressed my frustration at not being able to reach someone yet after so many calls and emails. I am told to hang up and try yet again another number. I do and I reach another automated service. I am asked for the serial number from my product. Don’t have one. So what do I do? I just say things hoping I will be able to reach an operator or someone live instead of a machine.

Spend the next 10 minutes on hold again. I am then told I will be transferred to “level 2” whatever that means. I get put on hold for another 10 minutes. It starts ringing, and then the automated message says to me “your call cannot be completed at this time” and I am hung up on; AGAIN.

So I call back to the last place I was able to speak with a person and started getting really frustrated. It was the same person I had spoken to previously. I asked if I could please speak to a supervisor or manager or some sort of person who can direct me to where I need to be. I am told that there are no supervisors in this department (really– so who’s your boss??) and that I should just check the website. The representative gets really snarky with me, as I again express my frustration at not getting the help I desire.

After about 5 minutes of frustrating conversation with this person, I ask again to speak to a supervisor or manager. Now I am told they are in a meeting and that I should call back later. I ask how long the meetings usually last. He doesn’t know. What time will they be on shift until? He doesn’t know. When is the best time to usually call to speak to them? He doesn’t know.

So I call back again later. And I am again transferred around to several different locations. I am told again that I need to speak to level 2. Again, on the transfer here, I am hung up on. This has only been repeated over and over again, always with the same result.

What the hell Acer? Do you not value your customers? Clearly, you do not. Not only can I NOT get a straight answer– I can’t get ANY answer or even direction beyond what I assume is “level 1”.

I am forwarding my transcribed notes to your listed email AGAIN hoping that this expression of my frustration will get someone to at least call me back.

Acer– I am disgusted. Not only am I disgusted with your clear lack of an ethical purchasing policy, but I am disgusted with your supposed customer service. As far as I can tell– there is NO customer service at your company. Not only have they hung up on me, repeatedly. They have lied to me, spoken rudely to me… and been just downright disrespectful. This is unacceptable business practice and I am ashamed that I ever purchased an Acer computer.

So I have given up all hope on Acer. I will not call them again unless I receive some sort of response from them (which at this point, I highly doubt). I will continue however to express my thoughts about Acer and detail further my notes, as well as contact media representatives and any that will listen on the subject. As far as I can tell, not only does Acer not have an ethical business policy, it does not have any sort of business policy or customer service that I can ascertain.


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My struggle with one computer company (but it could be any)

So you can experience some of the process– here are some snipets of my journal to give you an idea of the frustrating process trying to get a straight answer from a company about something that they clearly advertise on their website (corporate social responsibility or ethical purchasing). I have edited out names and numbers, because I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of any of the employees (and do not want them to be punished), but rather a systematic failure on the part of the company and the industry as a whole (and others!). This company and industry are not alone on this— keep reading on for more updates. If you’d like more details or specifics– please feel free to contact me at apeaceofconflict@gmail.com.

 

Day 1

 Called 1-(800)-XXX-XXXX, redirected three times to 3 different locations. Frustrated that in the end I was finally sent to an HR hiring office instead of where I wanted to be, I hung up and called again.

This time was redirected to 1-800-XXX-XXXL. Let’s try here. No answer. Dead line.

Tried the 800-XXX-XXX again- hung up on twice in transferring after being redirected many times

Tried again- spoke to J—told to call corporate affairs 281-XXX-XXXX

 

410pm

First call to corporate office

20 minutes on hold

 

 430pm

Spoke to B, told to call 1-888-XXX-XXXX for info on ethical purchasing policy

Called- spoke to S—“no idea who you would speak to”, being put through to senior case manager who could help me better.

Senior case manager- L directed me to email corporate office- told her I had already emailed corporate and received no response—would like to speak to someone directly if at all possible. Expressed my frustrations that no one can tell me about their corporate social responsibility policy and what this means. Was told she would try to find out and get back to me by phone.

 

445pm

Phoned back to me—asked to give my information to contact back in email. Told they will get back to me with fuller details.

 

Day 3

No word back yet.

Called back and left message with P at last contact point.

 

455pm

Message received from C at the request of someone from corporate.

Told there is no direct extension to reach him at, but try calling 888-XXX-XXXP.

Called and was told it is “not available in my calling area” by an automated service machine message and followed the message to try calling 877-XXX-XXXQ.

Called and reached an automated service:

ONLY menu options- mail in rebates, to order or order status, tech support, shop and purchase new product, shopping, status update, that’s it! Tried to get through to an operator, cannot.

 

Picked shop and purchase new product (what choice is there)—here’s what I get:

J assures me the company uses ethical products, urges me to call 905-XXX-XXXX. It is now past 5pm, and the office is closed. I will call tomorrow.

Also said I could speak to his manger J. He forwarded me to his manager’s

mailbox. Left message. Don’t ever get a reply.

 

 

 

Repeat this process almost daily for six months at 10 different computer companies. No wonder people don’t bother! I should have at least one straight answer by now.

 

 

I feel like saying: How many people (and machines!) do I have to talk to just to get some more information about your products? I keep getting the exact same responses. I have read your websites. I have read your corporate social responsibility or ethics blurb quite thoroughly. It did not answer my questions. It did not tell me I can feel safe about your product. You need to know what happens in every aspect of your product line, not just the certain manufacturing or sales processes that you are a part of. You may not be able to control every aspect– but you can at the very least investigate or request them to change or change to another supplier who meets your standards. I am concerned with more than just whether you use sweatshops in your manufacturing. I want more answers about your product line. You create this product. You control this product. I don’t. You also advertise corporate social responsibility and ethical purchasing. If I can’t go to you for answers about your product line– who should I speak to? Where do I get these details– or is it all just for show? An image to project to make more money? If I do not start getting answers soon, I will take my complaints to the Competition Act, because all I see at this point is misleading advertising.

 

Our systems are failing us. We are forced to put our trust in others to some degree to live a socially inclusive lifestyle. Our systems complicate this trust because we are so disconnected from the world that even the companies that make our products don’t know where the products actually come from and how they were made. Why can’t they tell me more details? I understand the concept of competition, but I also understand the concept of ethics. It is unethical to me to claim corporate social responsibility or ethical purchasing policies and not even know for certain this is true. I feel like they don’t even see the issue exists, and so therefore may be participating in it without even knowing. This is not corporate responsibility.  

 

I want this to stop.


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My quest for a conflict free laptop: Apple

So one would think Apple  would have an ethical purchasing policy that doesn’t contribute to war, death and destruction, right? I certainly thought so. Especially since I read about the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct and their talk of corporate social responsibility on their website.  To on the one hand cause or contribute to war or human rights abuses, and on the other project an image of humanitarianism and social responsibility would seem quite contradictory, wouldn’t it?

Reading further into their actual code– it states that its purpose is to ensure that working conditions are safe whereever Apple products are made. It doesn’t mention anything about where their raw materials are purchased, and what they support.  It says that they expanded their compliance program to the “next layer” by auditing 34 companies that provide components for them. Again, only addressing some of the plants where components are manufactured and not the places supplying the components with raw materials. Also, what about their supplier’s supplier? Besides which, 34 is only a small portion of the supply companies involved in the process. It’s a start, but clearly not enough to give me peace about their products.

My first contact with Apple was incredibly frustrating. When I asked about whether they had an ethical purchasing or supply policy (even though it IS clearly on their website), I was met with, “what do you mean?” by their sales representatives.  The first sales lady went on to tell me that they build their own keyboards and other products and she doesn’t THINK they use slave labour. After explaining to her what I meant, and why I was actually calling, and telling her about how some of the raw materials support major human rights abuses,  I asked if I could be referred to someone who KNOWS whether this is happening or not for sure, and could explain to me the process they take to ensure it doesn’t there at Apple.

She was horrified and told me how terrible that it was that some products contribute to war and people don’t know. I definitely agreed.

So I was referred to their corporate location. After talking to three different people at this location on the phone, I had gotten no further. No one knew who exactly I should speak to about this, or what I was even really talking about. I was told to send a letter to corporate headquarters, which I then promptly did.

I also sent several emails and suggestions using their website’s feedback mechanism. I sent soo many because it has soo many different sections, and I didn’t know where my question fit in their contact structure.  No definitive word yet on whether Apple is among the guilty or not.

How is the question “does your company have an ethical purchasing policy”  soo difficult to answer? Either the company does, or does not have an ethical purchasing policy. If it does, “what does this ethical policy entail?” should not be that difficult a question to answer– you should be able to explain the steps you take to ensure ethical purchasing without too much difficulty. Come on corporations-get a clue!

How hard is it to get a straight answer?

Do any of your products use raw materials from a war zone? Do they contribute to human rights abuses? Do you use slave labour, child labour, or have unfair working conditions? These are yes or no questions that should be answered.  If no, I will make my purchasing accordingly. Why is it all these companies seem like they have never been asked this before? Why do they not seem to really care? Profits are clearly more important than people, otherwise they would take steps to ensure that they weren’t contributing to this chaos. They would be proud to report the full details that they are not contributing to war, human rights abuses and destruction. They could advertise true coporate social responsibility.

Personally, I no longer believe the claims of corporate responsibility and I don’t know how the companies could ever regain my trust except through thorough structures to stop the atrocities, and full transparency to prove they have actually stopped.


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My quest for a conflict-free laptop: Hewlett-Packard and Acer

Many of the resources in our everyday gadgets are mined in conflict zones, by war profiteers. Cobalt, coltan, tantalite, copper, tin, aluminum, diamonds, …. these metals and minerals that are in our cellphones, our computers, our blackberries, our i-pods, our devices, all our everyday gadgets and luxuries could have helped to ensure a civil war continued. They could have helped to ensure destruction, chaos and death continued. For example, the resource extraction of raw materials in the DR Congo which is used in many products is helping to kill as many as 45,000 people a month. It is also happening in many other parts of world, and we are supporting it by our purchases, unaware.

This angered me beyond belief to think I would be contributing to this. So I decided to find just one electronic device that has proven it is not using conflict resources. I started with a laptop computer.

my first email went to Acer, since this is the brand I currently own. This brand was chosen at the time because it was very cheap (like $500). It broke down slighty over a year after purchase (and just after the warranty had expired), and I was told that it would be cheaper to get a new one rather than to fix it. What happened to quality products that last a lifetime? Repair shops are barely used anymore– it is cheaper to just get new gadgets because technology is soo rapidly changing and so our old gadgets wind up in landfills. Some technology is recycled, but not much.

People could have been enslaved at gunpoint to mine the metals used to make this product. People could have died, been slaughtered, attacked and brutalized to make this product.  People could have been thrown off their ancestral land to make this product. It was no doubt an incredibly energy-intensive and waste producing process. It flew around the world, stopping at probably at least 10 sites to get manufactured, creating pollution along the way. It might have supported war, warlords or buying weapons. It might have ensured a dictator stayed in power that much longer. All so I can have the convenience of a laptop computer. How exciting!

I am contributing to war, destruction and environmental degradation by my purchase and I didn’t know it when I made the purchase. And we cast all our gadgets aside thoughtlessly because we want only the latest, unaware the damage we may be causing elsewhere. Why do we do nothing? The structures in place make it very hard to know the truth. I would take having an “ethical business policy” to mean they don’t support these kinds of atrocities. Shouldn’t it mean this?

The trouble is we seem to have little choice. How many brands are entirely conflict free? How do we even know? What body is in place to even check? Should we just trust the claim of  “ethical purchasing policies”?

I emailed Acer a couple of months ago to ask them if they had an ethical purchasing policy at their company, and what this meant in any great detail. I have yet to receive a response. I have just emailed them for a second time, — and am still waiting on a response. They have no mention on their website about an ethical purchasing policy (where some of the others do), so I’m really not expecting much at this point from them.

Hewlett-Packard suprised me. Its website goes into great detail to explain how they express “global citizenship” and environmental concerns. They were also the first company I came across that did have a list of suppliers available for scruitiny– offering some kind of transparency and responsibility. Sadly, there were some of its suppliers who have admitted to using conflict resources (or not knowing where their resources came from) in public media– and only 95% of the suppliers are listed. This leaves 5% unaccounted for. Contacting every supplier on the list, only led to a longer list of their suppliers and more companies to check and inquire. With the possibility of some conflict resources in my computer– my search must go on. I have called HP to ask about what their “corporate social responsibility”, as advertised on their website, really meant. I am waiting on a phone call back, after being redirected several times to different departments, getting hung up on, having to make 4 different phone calls to different offices and waiting on hold for half an hour on each different call.

No wonder people don’t bother to check.

Perhaps this is one company that can be convinced to change– so I will send emails, and hope for the best. Can we convince them that they need to be more responsible– I sure hope so. These companies are all making profits. Can they not use these profits to create structures that prevent conflict resources from getting into the product supply?  Can they not have an ethical purchasing policy that actually means something? Can they not take steps to be more sustainable? It would be in their interest to be more energy efficient– they could save money. It would be in all our interest for them to have an ethical business practice that actually meant something.

Can our governments not tax these companies to ensure they are respecting international human rights conventions instead of giving them great tax breaks?

The most frustrating part of this whole struggle is the never-ending chase that it seems to create. One inquiry leads to 50 inquiries, which leads to 100 more… how many hands does each product pass through before it gets to us, and what happens at each stage?

I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the truth.


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