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Should Apple Commit to Producing Conflict-Free iPhones?

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DailyFeed
Back in December, Samsung released a series of cheeky commercials for its Galaxy S II Android (GOOG) phones that mocked Apple’s (AAPL) hipster fanboys. Indeed, Apple has always positioned the company as an alternative for progressive, creative types -- i.e. those who “think different.”
 
Because Apple is seen as an innovative, progressive, socially responsible company, supporters of its products often hold the company to high ethical standards, many of which the company has struggled to meet.
 
Hoping that the large contingent of Apple supporters will do the same for his cause is Congolese Delly Mawazo Sesete. The native of the North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Replublic of the Congo has launched a petition on Change.org calling for Apple CEO Tim Cook to make conflict-free products, including its top-selling iPhones, that includes minerals from eastern Congo.

I want an iPhone for the holidays this year - and I do like the iPhone4S - but having monitored mining sites in eastern Congo for several years documenting human rights abuses, I have seen firsthand the rape, violence, and devastation being fueled by the trade in minerals found in electronics products.

I cannot in good conscience purchase a new phone because the gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum that power it are destroying my home.

Sesete also published an editorial on British newspaper The Guardian urging the same thing last week. He wrote:

Apple is perfectly positioned to be the first company to create a Congo conflict-free phone, using minerals from Congo that further stability and economic development and don't use slave labor or fund mass atrocities.

Apple, if you're reading this, please give my family and my people a chance for a better future by being a leader for a clean minerals trade in eastern Congo. Commit to purchasing minerals from my country, but do so in a way that benefits communities, not destroys them.
You've always shown you know how to think differently. Now it's time to think conflict-free..

As Tim Worstall from Forbes explains, what this campaign calls for is not for Apple to make conflict-free products. The company already sources its minerals for its iPhones from non-conflict areas. Instead, what Sezeste hopes the company does is to “build iPhones from minerals from these [conflict] areas (quite rightly too, the miners would appreciate having a job, an income, being able to eat, etc) but make sure that they only use not militia mined minerals.”
 
According to Worstall, under the new Dodd-Frank regulatory system, there is a law that mandates that purchases of material from Congo must be proven not to be militia-mined, but there is currently no system in place to tell apart conflict and non-conflict minerals from the resource-rich but war-torn nation.
 
Given the power and influence of Apple, now one of the world’s most valuable companies, it can surely help apply pressure on Congress to set up a regulatory system that will able to certify whether minerals from east Congo are conflict-free should the Cupertino-headquartered firm choose to do so. Sezete is counting of the legion of progressive Apple supporters to pressure Apple to pull its weight.
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