Nokia Is Serious about Avoiding Conflict Minerals

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Images via Nokia

Unlike a lot of major computer and gadget companies, Nokia tends to keep mum about the environmental work they do, out of a culture of modesty. A lot of good things the company is doing can slip past the radar, including its stance on ethical sources for raw materials. One place where Nokia takes some time to quietly brag is on the environment section of their Nokia Conversations website. Charlie Schick posted a piece there yesterday discussing the company's stance on ethical mineral sourcing and what it's doing to stay away from conflict minerals like Tantalum.

Tantalum is used in consumer electronics, and it comes from Coltan, and Coltan mining is a concern for environmental and social reasons. About 1% of the world's Coltan comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the mining of it has put the people, the forests and gorillas that live in them at risk. Nokia, as a major maker of devices that use the substance, has a responsibility to know whether or not its raw materials are coming from places of conflict like this.

In 2001 Nokia became aware of the potential link between the mining of Tantalum and financing of the conflict in the DRC and began requiring our suppliers to confirm they do not source this material from this country. This is checked on an ongoing basis. It helps that the DRC provides such a tiny amount of the world’s source of this material and there are many other countries around the world where it can be mined including Australia and Brazil.

More recently the company has been working with suppliers of other minerals, such as Cobalt and Tin, to improve transparency of the supply chain and understand how standards can be promoted. For example, the DRC supplies 40% of the world supply of Cobalt, a material used in batteries. This substance is found in the south of the country, away from the conflict zones and is mined legally by many large, well established companies.

We hear a lot about companies like Apple, Dell or HP working to take toxic materials out of their devices, or use recycled materials in the products. We also talk a lot about supply chain emissions reporting. But we don't as often talk about - but should - is the sourcing of the raw materials. Bringing a little focus to this and expanding the spotlight out to other materials is a great way to remind consumers and companies that the whole product from cradle to cradle needs to be ethically and sustainably processed.

This awareness of Tantalum sources doesn't mean Nokia is a perfect, green company - during these times, any company this size that is creating millions of devices that end up as landfill, has a long, long way to go before it's truly sustainable. There's a laundry list of steps Nokia could still be taking to green up, and we always have our greenwash-xray-goggles on when it comes to tech and gadgets. But we want to give credit where credit is due, and Nokia being proactive in this area, including working with the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, is encouraging news to hear.

If you're interested in keeping close tabs on what Nokia is saying about its green efforts, check out the Conversations.

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