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This piece co-authored with actress and activist Emmanuelle Chriqui originally appeared on the homepage of Huffington Post.
On March 7, Apple announces the highly anticipated iPad 3. With many exciting new features, the device could reinvent how we think about and interact with our world. But it’s not all that it could and should be. Watch this new video on the most “insanely great” – but missing – iPad feature that consumers who value human rights would like to see included in the next upgrade. Because Apple remains a leader in technical innovation, it can do more to position itself on the leading edge of innovations that address real-world problems. It can help stop a war in Africa by sourcing clean minerals from the Congo. This is very possible for Apple to do.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., is calling on Apple to cement its reputation as an industry leader by pushing for even greater reform and accountability. In a new campaign launching today, we will examine how Apple can address and repair this essential element of industry leadership, starting at the source: reform in its mineral supply chain.
Many of the minerals that make up essential components in electronics products like the iPad 3 are found in abundance in the Democratic Republic of Congo, also home to the deadliest conflict since World War II. Since 1996, nearly six million Congolese have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped.
The roots of Congo’s conflict are complex; there is no simple fix for peace. However, the ongoing violence against the civilian population is largely fueled by the illicit trade in conflict minerals that are used by electronics companies as well as other industries: gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum. Armed groups use rape as a weapon of war, destabilizing communities while procuring hundreds of millions of dollars per year off the minerals trade.
The Enough Project – a project of the Center for American Progress that focuses on fighting genocide and crimes against humanity – has been advocating for electronics companies like Apple to ensure that the minerals they use in their products are being sourced from ethical, conflict-free mines. Apple has taken some good steps in this work, but as an industry leader, can go much further. So far, they have done more than any other company to trace and identify their suppliers that smelt the minerals, a key step in the supply chain. Additionally, they recently required their suppliers to purchase certified conflict-free minerals when they become available on the world market. But Apple should take the next step and ensure that its conflict-free products are not also “Congo-free” by sourcing minerals ethically from the Congo in a way that ensures Congolese communities are benefitting. This ethical sourcing in the Congo is a step that Motorola Solutions, Intel, and HP have already taken.
In technological innovation, Apple remains ahead of the curve when compared with its competitors. But “good enough” has never been Apple’s standard. That’s why so many of us love their products. After all, the iPad 1 was good enough for many consumers, but Apple has still found ways to make it better, and will no doubt continue to do so. Similarly, Apple should find ways to keep making improvements and innovating when looking at ethical sourcing in their supply chain. By doing so, Apple could satisfy growing consumer demand that it make itself a proactive partner in creating a solution for sustainable peace in eastern Congo.
Apple can seize the opportunity to help change the minerals trade so that it benefits communities and promotes development instead of funding warlords. And since Apple is an industry leader, it should also take this process to the next level by helping governments, industry and civil society create a credible certification system so that all companies can source responsibly from eastern Congo.
We applaud Apple’s innovative accomplishments – both in the world of technological advancements and industry-leading ethical improvements – but we encourage them to elevate their performance so that other companies will soon follow their example. If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that where Apple goes, the world market will follow. We would like to see that path be one that leads towards building responsible products that enhance the lives of all people of the world – not just consumers.
Emmanuelle Chriqui (@echriqui) is an actress and advocate for the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign.