By Carolyn Duran, PhD – Director, Supply Chain and Program Manager, Conflict-Free
When our CEO Brian Krzanich delivered his CES keynote in Las Vegas back in January, I was one of thousands in the audience that heard him announce Intel’s achievement of manufacturing conflict-free1 microprocessors. This was the culmination of many years of hard work. To hear it announced so publicly was an extremely rewarding and personal moment for me. And while my team and I certainly earned a moment to reflect on achieving this significant milestone, we understood that this was a brief stop on an even longer journey. We weren’t going to let up until we finished the work to ensure that ALL of our products were conflict-free.
Since January, we have not slowed down – nor have many of our industry partners. We continue our global travels to smelters in our supply chain – and our Intel team has visited 88 smelters in 21 countries. We continue to support smelters who choose to source responsibly from the DRC by utilizing programs which document the mineral “chain-of-custody.” A total of 97 smelters in our supply chain have now been validated as conflict-free. We also encourage efforts to help legitimate miners within the DRC or surrounding region. The Enough Project, one of the most visible non-governmental organizations on the issue, released a report this summer noting evidence that armed groups are beginning to cede control of many of the mines in the DRC. What we are doing is helping to affect change on the ground – what more could we ask for? In addition, of over 1300 company reports which have been reported to have been submitted to the U.S. SEC, our Dodd-Frank Conflict-Minerals filing was one of only four which had been audited by a third-party. We were also one of the only companies that chose to be transparent about our supply chain by disclosing our smelter list, highlighting those that have participated in third party audits for source of origin and those that still need to take action.
But one of the most significant changes I have observed is the increase of awareness on the issue across the global supply chain network. Five years ago, we were literally “cold-calling” smelters, most of them having no idea why they were hearing from Intel, or the meaning of the term “conflict-mineral.” Recently I attended a gathering of one of the world’s largest tin industry associations. Per my own unofficial polling, every single smelter representative or trader I spoke with had knowledge of the issue. This was a marked change even from only one year earlier. And very recently, I received a personal call from a supply-chain director at a well-known auto maker asking to sit down with Intel to learn more about our work.
So yes, progress is evident – but again, the journey is not complete. So what’s the next big goal for us? When do we expect to be conflict-free for all of our products? At Intel, we are nothing if not a company filled with engineers and scientists. And we like measurement – and goals. So we have a new goal – directed by our CEO Brian Krzanich – to be conflict-free for all of our products starting in 2016. Am I confidant in the team we have working toward this goal? Absolutely. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. Will this be enough to solve the issues of conflict in the DRC? Definitely not. But we are building momentum. I invite you to learn more about the issue, and keep track of our efforts on our “In Pursuit of Conflict-Free” website. And through important partnerships with other companies, the mining and metal industries, civil society and governments, we have a rising tide that will lift all boats.
1. “Conflict free” and “conflict-free” means “DRC conflict free”, which is defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules to mean products that do not contain conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and/or gold) that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or adjoining countries.