Nintendo is hoping for a wave of good press following its Wii U Preview event in New York tomorrow morning, but an anti-slavery organization called Walk Free is determined to give them some bad publicity for their inaction on conflict minerals.
Nintendo is hoping for a wave of good press following its Wii U Preview event in New York tomorrow morning, but an anti-slavery organization called Walk Free is determined to give them some bad publicity — and hopefully, to spur them into action.
Tomorrow, Walk Free plans to hold a protest outside Nintendo's press briefing. Participants would be dressed as Nintendo characters, holding signs with messages such as "slavery is not a game" and "Nintendo, don't be a Bowser." The reason? Nintendo's poor record on the use of conflict minerals.
"A lot of gamers will be excited by the launch of the Wii U, but many will also want answers from Nintendo after its recent conflict minerals 'fail'," said Debra Rosen of Walk Free. "We know that there is extensive slavery and violence in Congo's mining industry, and Nintendo has a responsibility to ensure it is not contributing to it."
"Conflict minerals" refer to ores containing the elements tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold, which figure prominently in electronics manufacturing. Their mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo funds a decades-long war that results in human rights abuses against the men, women, and children who are forced to extract them from the Earth.
Enough, a project of the Center for American Progress, is one of many groups working to raise awareness of conflict minerals and take corporations to task for using them in their production lines. It released a report last month ranking 24 major consumer electronics companies by their efforts to examine and end the use of conflict minerals in their respective supply chains.
Nintendo finished dead last; Microsoft placed 10th, while Sony — a company long associated with conflict minerals — ranked 15th.
According to the report, Nintendo has made zero percent progress toward "responsible sourcing" of minerals. Steps taken by the companies who placed higher on the list included tracing the source of their minerals; auditing their smelters, the minerals' suppliers; and using minerals from mines certified as conflict-free. Microprocessor manufacturer Intel and electronics maker HP were listed at the top with "outstanding" progress in multiple areas toward responsible sourcing.
As far as Enough is aware, Nintendo has not taken any steps in that direction; the report awarded the company zero points out of a possible 48. According to the report, Nintendo has not taken action to investigate its supply chain, neither tracing its mineral sources nor auditing its smelters. The company has also failed to speak out in support of an international conflict-free certification standard or legislation on conflict minerals.
In 2010, Nintendo provided a statement to Raise Hope for Congo, a campaign of the Enough Project, on the subject of conflict minerals:
As a remote purchaser that buys finished components made from many materials, Nintendo requires its suppliers to comply with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Procurement Guidelines, which stipulate suppliers comply with applicable laws, have respect for human rights and conduct their business in an appropriate and fair manner.
However, Nintendo's own 2012 CSR Report made no mention of conflict minerals, and according to Enough's report, the company has not spoken publicly about the topic since that 2010 statement. Enough received no response from Nintendo on four different attempts to contact the company before compiling its 2012 report.
We reached out to Nintendo and Walk Free for this story, and did not receive responses by press time.
UPDATE: Polygon has been informed that due to funding falling through, the planned protest will no longer be taking place at Nintendo's New York Event tomorrow. The petition, however, is still moving forward.