When talking on an iPhone, putting on a piece of jewelry or driving in a car, most people don't consider where the materials used to make these products come from.
Some may think about the possibility that the object in question was manufactured in another country under severe and inhumane labor conditions. But not enough consumers are aware that items they use on a daily basis were constructed with materials that could, in essence, be contributing to warfare.
But Intel Corp. is trying to change that.
Mineral mining used to finance war rebels
The manufacturing of electronics often requires the use of minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, Intel's website explained. Unfortunately, these minerals are often mined in areas riddled with warfare and human rights abuse, which are especially prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Buyers of these materials, therefore, can either directly or indirectly contribute to the funding of warlords.
Two years ago, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that all of the company's microprocessors would be entirely conflict-free, Fast Company reported.
In 2012, The United States Securities and Exchange Commission mandated a reform law based in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that requires companies to "publicly disclose their use of conflict minerals that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or an adjoining country."
But Intel began regulating its role in this issue years before that.
At the time of the microprocessor announcement in 2014, Intel Director of Supply Chain Carolyn Duran told Fast Company that, after figuring out where and what materials were being sourced from conflict areas, it decided to focus on identifying which smelters were used by its suppliers. Then, third-party audits were conducted to validate them and remove any that weren't free of conflict.
Responsible sourcing practices
Recently, Fast Company released an update that revealed Intel isn't stopping at the microprocessors. The multinational chip maker plans to ensure its end-to-end supply chain operations are entirely conflict-free.
Over the years, Intel has worked with nonprofit groups such as the Enough Project and government agencies to implement tracking and auditing procedures that will ensure the mineral procurement and manufacturing processes are humane and socially responsible.
And while thoroughly assessing every new supplier relationship is a challenging process, it has been considerably effective so far.
In the most recent study conducted by the Enough Project, it was found that the use of common conflict materials such as tin, tantalum and tungsten has decreased by 65 percent, the source added.
Another benefit resulting from Intel's conflict-free movement is the influence it has had on other manufacturers across industries. The goal, Duran recently told Fast Company, is to initiate a positive transformation of global supply chains that so, eventually, all businesses are conflict-free.
"You can put up the walls around our own supply chain and say as long as ours is good we're good," said Duran. "But that's not really fixing the fundamental problem. It takes all of us to really fix the problem on the ground."