Let's start at the bottom of the supply chain: Materials. Aaron, a brief primer on conflict materials in Congo?
Then, assembly. Kathleen, explain what Foxconn is, and what the issue is?
While not the only company to be part of these issues, Apple is in the limelight due to its shiny brand image. In June things hit the media in a big way... Steve jobs said regarding conflict materials,
We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it's a very difficult problem. (June 30)
And regarding Foxconn, at the D8 conference,
We are all over this. Foxconn is not a sweatshop. It's a factory -- but my gosh, they have restaurants and movie theaters... but it's a factory. But they've had some suicides and attempted suicides -- and they have 400,000 people there. The rate is under what the US rate is, but it's still troubling." (June 1)
Comment? What's happened since June?
What new or potential laws address this in the U.S.? Elsewhere?
How long have these problems been generally known? How long before that do they go back?
Electronics is hardly the only industry plagued by issues of conflict, ethics, pollution, or human rights. How have other industries (apparel, food, energy) handled these problems successfully?
Please address this email from a Roundtable listener, Peter:
I am part of the iPod generation and I feel like we get a lot of criticism for blindly purchasing things. What can we do about this? obviously everybody's not going to stop buying iPod's, laptops etc. Anything other than demanding change from the manufactures and our government?
Let's say, for sake of argument, that a big electronics company like Apple or Dell or HP wants to sell certified ethical consumer electronics. What can it do?
What are some positive examples?
What would happen if our electronics were made in completely humane conditions? And with responsibly mined or recycled materials?
How do consumers demand the transparency you two are espousing?
Wrap-up: Where to go for more info. Aaron, then Kathleen.