I think this is a really interesting and enriching debate, so thank you @JackHK for sharing this.
The letter from the African colleague seems to me a bit excessive. It sounds like it has been written in a moment of anger, mixing several things that have little to do with FP. I totally agree that FP is not addressing Congo’s fundamental problems, but they’ve never claimed to do that, they’re just dealing with one big problem that, although it may not be “fundamental”, it is undoubtedly really important. Anyway, the letter provides some interesting resources and it seems to me that this guy has a good knowledge of DRC’s state of affairs. And most important, it raises up a couple of uncomfortable questions about Fairphone that some of us may have:
What does “conflict-free minerals” mean for the Fairphone company? Is it an initiative to help making Congolese people lives a little bit better that happens to be an exceptional marketing technique? Or is it an exceptional marketing technique that happens to make Congolese people lives a little bit better? The priority is essential if we expect to maintain this for a long time.
Has Fairphone company taken into account Congolese people’s point of view while designing its strategy for DRC? What feedback is FP receiving from Congo? How this initiative finally affected the miners?
Of course, it’s a great thing that FP people will join the discussion and address this questions and more. But I would like to make a request that goes beyond that and is really, really important in my opinion. Priorities are what differentiates a private company and a social movement. Social movements can have many goals. Private companies have one unique goal: profit. They can be more or less ethically concerned, but the main goal is to make as much profit as possible. Because of that, transparency is not a common feature of them. Revealing information can damage the company and also benefit others. But social and open organizations are not afraid of transparency. My request is to increase transparency on the mining issue from FP developers.
What information do we have now? Five blog posts about mining in the last 2 years, and a list of FP1 suppliers in the Reports section that does not even say a word about where the minerals come from. C’mon, people, could it be called transparency? Am I missing something? Are there any hidden secret resources that I’m not able to find on the web? If there are, please tell me.
One of the five blog posts (this one) talks about mineral traceability. This is an essential point in the “conflict-free” goal. Fairphone claims for this, but no information is given to us, the consumers, to verify it. In order to build a solid community that aims to make a better product, we need two things: transparency and participation. And the latter is not possible without the former. Because of that, I propose the following things:
Ask Fairphone administrators to publish a report with detailed and clear information about the sources of materials, and make it easily accessible through their website. This information should include what minerals are being imported from Great Lakes region, detailing quantity and mine of origin. Good traceability is very hard to achieve in that zone, because minerals from different origins get mixed at the moment of selling them, but it can be made with some degree of confidence. If Fairphone is delegating this task in any ONG or other organization, then it should be noticed on the report and provide a link to the information in the organization website.
Ask Fairphone administrators to publish an estimation of the profit fraction that finally goes to the mine workers. At this moment, we only have a section in the cost breakdown called “Materials” (230.30€, actually the biggest section) that is not an acceptable degree of detail, an of course is not a “cost breakdown”.
Ask Fairphone administrators to publish a full list of FP2 suppliers.
Maybe it seems that I’m being tough with this demands, but I really like Fairphone, and I am only doing this hoping that it helps to make it a little better. Also, I’d love to know what you all think about this, because for me is the key to solve this problem.