Do You Know if There's Blood in Your Phone?

By Elizabeth Palmberg 01-21-2011

Last summer's financial reform bill included something the world has long needed: a requirement that electronics manufacturers disclose whether their products include conflict minerals from Congo. Money from conflict minerals helps fund militias' reign of terror and rape in the country's eastern region. (See activist site Raise Hope for Congo's listing of how 21 leading electronics companies are doing at voluntary disclosure -- no one gets a gold star, but some are worse than others. Yeah, we're talkin' to you, Nintendo.)

Given the partial-to-complete failure of voluntary disclosure, the financial reform law's provisions for mandatory truth-telling are all the more important. But, as with almost all parts of financial reform, the ground-level rules that are written to carry out the law will make all the difference. Will the public get real reporting that enables us to choose cell phones and MP3 players that don't contain blood-soaked minerals? Or will the standards be watered down until they are nearly meaningless?

Last December, the SEC tentatively proposed a meaningful set of rules for conflict mineral reporting (read the skinny on Raise Hope for Congo's blog). Now, reportedly, companies that don't want stronger standards are lobbying the SEC hard to try to water down the proposed rules.

Members of the public can have a voice too, on the SEC website's page where you can share your comments with decision-makers -- but time runs out soon: The comment period ends January 31.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an associate editor of Sojourners.

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