Conflict minerals are one of those things that people prefer not to think about. The short definition refers to minerals that come from areas currently in conflict and may be involved with human rights abuses or corruption. As a general rule, you want companies to ethically source the things that go into your systems, but, perhaps as a corollary discussion to yesterday’s post about tariffs, there is a pervasive thought that ethical manufacturing in hardware is often be at the whims of a balance sheet.
Moreover, companies are also at the whims of logistical reality in knowing where these materials come from. Even a good-faith attempt to know the full extent of what is going into a console can be mislead or tracked improperly. It is not an easy question, even as enforcement of it is largely down to the inclinations and caprices of the market and whether or not they care about the subject.
GamesIndustry.biz has put together their annual report on which companies are doing a good job halting business with suppliers that engage in or ignore abuses, or even reporting whether they have done the work at all. It is a lengthy read, but for a fairly important subject.
The long and short of it is that video game manufacturers could be doing a much better job regarding conflict minerals. While Microsoft seems to look into their smelters and refiners with seeming regularity, they don’t seem to do much besides check in and aren’t proposing any solutions for what slips through the cracks. Nintendo, who once rated 0 percent among reported smelters and refiners due to a complete lack of reporting, has made big leaps over that but then small steps in the years since.
Sony meanwhile has a continued trend of being opaque about conflict minerals, frequently making promises that get ignored later. As a company that produces a lot of electronics hardware, Sony seems aware of how this lack of transparency reflects on them, but has not made many moves to fix it. While it has promised in-person visits for supply partners that do not respond to their surveys, it comes off a bit more like the empty threats of a parent threatening to count to ten before they turn the car around.
The full report on GamesIndustry.biz goes into a lot more detail about various other companies and their hardware manufacturing, such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and more.