How to consume fairly?

I’m not sure how to consume ethically when it comes to conflict minerals.

Should I boycott companies that are making lackluster but some progress with tracing minerals, or support them to send a message?

Should I boycott products that are made with machines that may contain conflict minerals (basically all mass-produced products, electricity) ?

should I support companies that aren’t conflict free if they are ethical otherwise?

what’s the right thing to do here in general?

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I’m not sure that your question(s) are easy to answer to be honest.

Is there a right way to be ‘ethical’? Now that’s a question and a half.

Some people think boycotting companies that do business in unethical ways works, but others would argue that it doesn’t. If you boycott a company, will they even notice? It only works when there is some kind of mass movement against the company. It might make you feel better for doing it though and why shouldn’t you…

The problem is that supply chains are so overly complex that traceability is obscured such that understanding where things come from is very difficult (I think the staff at Fairphone would agree that!). If a company can’t tell you where their materials came from, how can a consumer make an ‘ethical’ choice?

So if you boycott one company, can you be certain you’ll be making a more ‘ethical’ choice with another company? Unless of course they overtly state their ‘ethical’ credentials through some kind of certification scheme.

Another issue to consider is what we all mean when we talk about being ‘ethical’. Anyone can be ‘ethical’ but that doesn’t mean that they are good, green or have the same ethics as someone else. I’m not sure that there is an agreed industry definition.

My opinion is that when we’re informed of issues (such as conflict minerals) we have the ability to make a choice and should consider doing what we can to make a difference. To me that doesn’t mean stopping using your laptop/PC or any other electrical product you have - using products for as long as possible should be part of being ethical after all - but when they have reached the end of their life, try to make a more informed choice and support companies that are trying to make a difference. It’s difficult.

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I think it’s impossible to boycott all electronic devices that contain conflict minerals without propelling yourself into some sort of self-imposed dark age. This becomes increasingly difficult if you’re also going to boycott products that were produced using machines that contain conflict minerals.

You also can’t change the world by yourself. I guess there’s basically two things you can do:

  1. Be mindful of buying new electronics yourself. Do you really need the (new) device? Are there more socially responsible alternatives available (for example: buying second hand or continued use of existing devices).
  2. Inform others about conflict minerals and other ethical issues surrounding electronic devices. I find that being a FairPhone owner and being vocal about it (sometimes simply by wearing my FairPhone t-shirt) attracts interest from other people. Sometimes it amazes me how many have actually heard about FairPhone before. Most of these people don’t really know the ins and outs, but when they hear that I have a FairPhone, they ask about the story behind it, and I tell them. Hopefully that spreads the message and educates people.
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I think, when buying products, it never hurts to actually ask the shopkeeper about the conflict minerals, worker conditions etc. Sure, nobody has even a clue. But if enough customers start asking about it, they could start to realise it could be a commercial advantage to be aware of the problem. Or even to pass the message “up” in the value chain…

Good point. I think it’s actually already working in the clothing industry where more and more people are asking for “fair” clothing so it’s increasingly becoming a thing.

Thank you for your thoughts. I agree, it is a complicated issue. I’ve decided that I don’t agree with the strategy of “avoiding buying new electronics”. To me that’s kind of washing your own hands clean, but not taking responsibility to change things. Isn’t it better to actually support companies that are trying to change things in the industry (like Intel or HP) to send a message, and to support a change for the better?

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My personal strategy is to:

  • consume sparingly (I keep everything until it’s broken and I don’t care about trends)

  • keep my money in a green bank (unfortunately there isn’t really one in austria and my first choice - the german non-profit bank GLS - gave up their plans on expanding to austria. But I have green financial products like a WWF stock pool and the “CacaoInvest” by Forest Finance. (Yes, I am a prowd leaseholder of a cacao-plant in Peru and a mixed forest in Panama. :D)

  • If I do need something I either shop it in a store that I trust to keep sustainabillity over profit or I do an internet research myself to find the fairest product available.

If I boykotted every company that did something wrong I couldn’t buy anything anymore. Or in other words: In a world where everything (exaggeration) is evil the lesser evil is part of the solution and not the problem.

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Hey, by chance I found this one: Steyler Bank - ethical investments. They seem to have a branch in Maria Enzersdorf now.

Yeah I stumbled upon them when I did my research, but they only have a very small spectrum of products to offer, eg not even a giro account.
I’m currently waiting for the Bank für Gemeinwohl to be founded.

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Well, there’s a difference between not buying any electronics at all, and buying a new smartphone every two years because the new one is shinier than your previous one or because "oh em gee, my BFF’s can’t see me with last year’s smartphone, I’d so totally die if that happened!!!"
The thing I’m trying to say is that if you buy new electronics, be sensible about it. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s better to not buy a new electronics device if you don’t really need it than still buying a new device that is “fair”. And whenever you do need a new device, seek out the ones that were manufactured in the most responsible way.

[quote=“RandomWizard, post:6, topic:5433”]
Isn’t it better to actually support companies that are trying to change
things in the industry (like Intel or HP) to send a message[/quote]

While supporting responsible companies is a good idea, I’m afraid that your specific examples (Intel and HP) don’t send such a message at all, no matter how responsible they are. These companies don’t profile themselves as responsible and they’re companies that already have a huge share of their respective markets. If you buy an Intel CPU on the principle of them being responsible, then that act in itself doesn’t send out that message because you’re just one of the millions of other customers who don’t give a frick.

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