Let’s play devil’s advocate for a bit. Just because I like to stir up trouble.
All the talk about conflict resources like cobalt, diamonds, and tantalum, is making waves in Western media. We’re watching the general public start to make buying decisions based on ethics. Or are we? I mean, even before Apple gained kudos for decreasing their use of conflict minerals, the company still outsold ALL Windows PCs. Combined.
This raises a few key questions for scholars and the public.
First, the economics. What do companies gain by avoiding the use of conflict minerals? Is there a price difference that is being transferred to consumers? Can a jewelry store charge more for diamonds that are certified conflict-free? What is the premium on conflict-free purchases?
Second, the consequences. Conflict-free. Great. What about other ethical qualms, like slavery? Let’s take it to another level, though. by publicizing the existence of conflict resources as goods that exist on the market, are we inadvertently advertising a form of funding to insurgent groups?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of conflict-free goods. But this is one complex ball of wax that does deserve some consideration.
A few fun resources for further information on media and conflict, and natural resources and conflict:
Conflict Mineral Disclosures: A mandate of the Dodd-Frank Act Lindberg and Razaki, 2012
Cracking Down on Conflict Minerals, Strickland, 2011
Lessons Learned from Addressing Conflict Minerals with a Supply Chain Strategy, Forrer, Mo, & Yeaw, 2012
Is There Blood on Your Hands-Free Device? Veale, 2012
Globalised Rebellion: The Darfur insurgents and the world, Jumbert and Lanz, 2013