Bringing Conflict-Free Technology to the Enterprise


In January 2014, Intel accomplished its goal to manufacture microprocessors that are DRC conflict free for tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold.

The journey towards reimagining the supply chain is long and arduous; it’s a large-scale, long-term commitment that demands precise strategy. For us, it was an extensive five-year plan of collecting and analyzing data, building an overarching business goal, educating and empowering supply chain partners, and implementing changes guaranteed to add business value for years to come. But we committed ourselves to these efforts because of global impact and responsibility.  As a result, the rewards have outweighed the work by leaps and bounds.

Cutting Ties with Conflict Minerals

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the epicenter of one of the most brutal wars of our time; since 1998, 5.4 million lives have been lost to the ongoing conflict, 50 percent of which were five-years old or younger. The economy of the DRC relies heavily on the mining sector, while the rest of the world relies heavily on the DRC’s diamonds, cobalt ore, and copper. The stark reality is that the war in the Eastern Congo has been fueled by the smuggling of coltan and cassiterite (ores of tantalum and tin, respectively). Meaning most of the electronic devices we interact with on a daily basis are likely powered by conflict minerals.

One of the main reasons most are dissuaded from pursuing an initiative of this scope is that the supply chain represents one of the most decentralized units in the business. Demanding accountability from a complex system is a sizeable endeavor. Intel represents one of the first enterprise tech companies to pursue conflict-free materials, but the movement is starting to gain traction in the greater tech community as customers demand more corporate transparency.

Getting the Enterprise Behind Fair Tech

For Bas van Abel, CEO of Fairphone, there’s already a sizeable consumer demand for fair technology, but there remains a distinct need to prove that a market for fair technology exists. Fairphone is a smartphone featuring an open design built with conflict-free minerals. The company also boasts fair wages and labor practices for the supply chain workforce. When Abel crowd-funded the first prototype, his goal was to pre-sell 5,000 phones; within three weeks, he had sold 10,000. It’s only a matter of time before the awareness gains foothold and the general public starts demanding conflict-free minerals.

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We chose to bring the conflict-free initiative to our supply chain because funding armed groups in the DRC was no longer an option. Our hope is that other enterprises will follow suit in analyzing their own supply chains. If you want to learn more about how we embraced innovation by examining our own corporate responsibility and redefining how we build our products, you can read the full brief here.

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