Despite the high-profile treatment it's received recently, little has been done to address the fact that the money paid for minerals used in everyday gadgets sometimes supports foreign wars and atrocities. Some industries have dealt with public and government pressure to stamp out abuses in their supply chain -- diamonds have the UN-recognized Kimberley process, coffee has the fair trade label -- but electronics makers lag behind.
Nicholas Kristoff helped bring "blood phones" into the national discourse in a column a few weeks ago and now an amendment to the financial reform bill would require electronics companies to file annual disclosures of what's in their products and where some of those materials come from. A jewelry trade association is fighting the measure arguing that materials are "too hard to trace."
But even if the amendment passes, governments and other organizations may not be suited to enforce fair practices in the supply chain. Diamond industry author Tom Zoellner says the UN-backed Kimberley Process is "more like a low brick wall than a prison fence" and can be circumvented by smuggling diamonds across borders. Harvard Berkman Center fellow Ethan Zuckerman paraphrases Fair Labor Association's Auret Van Heerden's recent TED talk, arguing that "governments can't regulate their own supply chains, and they have even less ability to monitor these changes on an international level."