12 Nov 20 | Weekly podcast
The no conflict minerals debate is driven as much by regulatory nudges as millennial buying choices
Now, in 2016, the company has taken a step further. CEO Brian Krzanich has pledged that Intel’s broader product portfolio, which includes various other chipsets and memory cards, will be conflict free this year. The products will carry what Krzanich calls a “conflict free symbol”.
Intel’s conflict-free programme focuses on smelters of the precious metals. Through certification and audits, the company seeks to ensure that smelters do not buy minerals from dubious sources. Duran say the system is “not 100% foolproof”, but broadly speaking, such efforts seem to be paying off. And no doubt its processes will be subject to close scrutiny over the coming months.
There is not a huge amount of reliable data on the funding of armed groups in central Africa, but a 2012 report by Enough, a project of the Centre for American Progress, estimated a 65% decline since 2010 in money going to warlords from the tantalum, tin and tungsten trade.
However, the evidence that consumers are well-informed about conflict minerals and base buying decisions on their presence in companies’ products is thin. Intel’s own survey found that only 35% of millennials had heard of conflict minerals. The survey also found that “unaided, the majority of millennials do not associate any particular companies with taking action on conflict minerals”.
In a similar vein, a 2014 survey from PwC found that only 19% of companies considered that their customers and stakeholders were concerned about conflict minerals, and only 7% saw a possible competitive advantage in taking a lead. For the vast majority of companies (90%), action was driven by compliance, PwC found.
But consumers are likely to become better educated. The Intel survey found that, once informed about conflict minerals, 68% of respondents would look more favourably on companies that prioritise elimination of dubious supplies.