Phony Business

Yet again it was time to look inside the products we buy and discover the ugly truth about them.

Luckily, I hadn’t planned to buy a new phone anytime soon before watching the documentary Blood in the Mobile. In that documentary I learnt about Blood Minerals and how big companies don’t care about small boys working in mines. Here’s the story:

This story takes us to the Democratic Republic of Congo (a very misleading name by the way). “Congo is a country of many natural resources like gold, diamonds, rubber, coltan and cassiterite. But instead of causing Congo wealth, these resources have ended up fuelling the bloodiest war since WWII. 5 million people have died, estimated 300.000 women have been raped.” That is where the mineral cassiterite comes from which happens to be a very important resource for making all those fancy gadgets we use nowadays: phones, ipads, MP3 players etc. If you look up the mineral in Wikipedia you will find the following statement: “Fighting over cassiterite deposits (particularly in Walikale) is a major cause of the conflict waged in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo“. Now, there is even more to it. The mines do at the same time also finance the war. “All of the main armed groups involved in the current fighting in eastern DRC finance themselves through the trade in high-value minerals.”

In the movie you can see the working conditions in the place called Bisie where Child Labour is the most common form of work and the workers do not have any kind of protection or rights.

This gives you an idea:

The Enough Project has analyzed the biggest phone companies on their take on these conflict minerals. You can find their outcomes here. According to them companies like Nokia, Motorola, HP or Dell are on track for change whereas Acer, Apple or IBM still have room for improvement. But in reality, they all have room for improvement because no company so far can prove to be conflict-free. That’s what Danish filmmaker Frank Piasecki Poulsen is trying to show in his film looking at the example of Nokia. The Finnish company usually famous for its social responsibility tries by all means to avoid any direct statement on the issue.

For once, it is in the US where progress is made: “In July 2010 the U.S. Congress passed the Dodd Frank Act, which contained a provision – Section 1502 – which addresses the issue of conflict minerals and the role of companies that use tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold”, Global Witness writes. But as usual the case is more complicated than that:  “associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) “have been seeking to undermine the implementation of Dodd Frank 1502”. And things get even worse when knowing that many of the companies involved in trying to find a solution are actually also involved with the above associations. So do they really want to comply with Dodd Frank?  That’s what the Business and Human Righs Resource Center wanted to know. They asked the companies like Dell, HP, Motorola or Microsoft to respond on these concerns. You can find their replies – at least those who did reply – here.

If you’re not yet convinced to quite the trend to buy a new phone or gadget all the time, check out this cividep report on the living conditions of people assembling Nokia phones in India. Here’s what one of the worker’s said: “As long as I am in this job I will not be able to marry and start a family. The company does not care about us workers even though they are making huge profits out of our labour.” Unfortunately, it’s the same old story over and over again … but we are the ones supplying the demand!

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3 thoughts on “Phony Business

  1. great post Rahel! Lucky I have NO idea how to use mobile phones and won’t use one…for once my “Old school” approach has served me well!

    • Great approach my friend! I try to do the same and won’t go with time and update to a smartphone, I’m happy my phone does what it’s supposed to do: call 😀

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