Nintendo says that the companies that make the 3DS, Wii, and Wii U for them have promised that those consoles will not be made with conflict minerals, the minerals found in an array of electronics including video games and used to fund the bloody, brutal war in the Congo.
"All production partners have agreed to comply with our guidelines," a Nintendo spokesperson told Polygon. "Further, we have obtained individual confirmation from each production partner that they agree not to use conflict minerals."
Conflict minerals became a source of concern following the rise and fall of blood diamonds, those rare minerals mined in the warzones of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and sold to build armies. Conflict minerals include tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold mined from the Congo and used in a vast array of popular electronics.
This week, anti-conflict mineral group Walk Free said they plan to protest Nintendo's New York Wii U event because they believe the company isn't doing enough to verify that conflict minerals aren't being used in their consoles. The group later told Polygon that they won't be able to protest the event, but do have an online petition.
The group points to the most recent report from the Enough Project, an arm of the Center of American Progress, which ranked Nintendo dead last among 24 major consumer electronics companies by their efforts to examine and end the use of conflict minerals.
Most electronics companies rely on third-party production facilities to procure minerals. Often those minerals are brought in from around the world and blended together, sometimes with conflict minerals. Enough asks companies to audit their supply chain to confirm compliance.
Reached for comment this evening, Nintendo officials say that they take their social responsibilities as a global company very seriously and expect their production partners to do the same.
"Nintendo outsources the manufacture and assembly of all Nintendo products to our production partners," the company told Polygon. "We established the Nintendo Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Procurement Guidelines in 2008, which were revised in 2011. Nintendo disseminated these guidelines to all of our production partners.
"Nintendo's CSR Procurement Guidelines provide specific directions to our production partners regarding socially responsible procurement practices. We implemented these guidelines based on relevant laws, international standards and guidelines that focus on protecting human rights, ensuring workplace safety, promoting corporate ethics, and safeguarding the environment. These guidelines include provisions on avoiding the use of conflict minerals and the importance of investigating the source of raw materials."
A company official also pointed us to their latest Corporate Social Responsibility report, where they detail the work they put into being a socially responsible company.
The report, however, doesn't address whether Nintendo audits its production partners, or instead relies on their agreement to comply.
Nintendo plans to detail its new Wii U console in a New York event tomorrow morning. The company says they plan to announce the price, date and other details about the soon-to-be released console.
Update: A representative for Enough provided Polygon with the following response to Nintendo's statement that it is taking steps to eliminate its use of conflict minerals.
According to Sasha Lezhnev, a senior policy analyst at Enough and the co-author of the group's 2012 report ranking companies by their progress on conflict minerals, "Nintendo's statement is a meaningless piece of paper without concrete steps behind it, because suppliers don't know where their minerals come from. It should join the electronics industry audit program for conflict-free smelters, and require its suppliers to use only conflict-free smelters. Without that bare minimum, Nintendo is only putting a fig leaf over serious issues of war and slavery."
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