Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Intel: Ban on Conflict Minerals (2014)

Intel Corp logo on a sign outside one of their main buildings
Intel Corporation is a successful American multinational technology company founded in 1968, known as being one of the world’s largest and highest valued producers of semiconductor chips. Intel’s products can be found in anything from cell phones and laptops to cars and airplanes. However, the minerals that are used to make these products have come under heavy scrutiny and are known as conflict minerals. Four minerals make up conflict minerals: tungsten, tin, tantalum, and gold. These minerals mainly come from Congo where a war takes place over the control of the mineral mines, with profits funding the militia. Large firms that purchased these conflict minerals, such as Intel didn’t seem to care or know, about what was required to obtain the minerals. As long as the firm had the materials to make their products, they were satisfied. When asked, Intel claimed that finding out whether their products were coming out of a vicious cycle of rapes and killings in Congo was nearly impossible both from a logistical standpoint and also a financial standpoint (Heath). Intel was denying an attempt to try to stop the violence going on in the mines because of one main reason: it would cost companies an estimated $3-4 billion in order to track the supply chain of these conflict minerals. In 2010, the Dodd-Frank bill was passed requiring publicly listed American companies to release whether their products are made with minerals from mines under the control of militia in or around Congo. This prompted Intel to make a move, and finally in 2014 Intel announced that all of its new microprocessors released in 2014 will be made with conflict-free minerals. However, over the course of the time that Intel had been using conflict minerals, 4.5 million innocent Congolese were killed along with 30,000 women raped in the war over the mines. Intel had been a contributing factor in funding the war over conflict minerals for far too long.

The stakeholders in the Intel Conflict Minerals case include Intel employees and customers in one view, but also the shareholders and workers in the Congo and their families in another view.

Congolese people mining for gold and other Intel minerals
Employees and customers are not directly affected, but they both hold the overwhelming burden over their heads that workers in Congo suffered in order to provide materials to produce a product. They will always be reminded that millions of people were killed at the expense of the product they hold and use every day. Shareholders are directly affected as this is likely to cause stock prices to fall as the cost of producing these goods will increase. Workers in Congo along with their families are also directly affected as millions were killed.

As Milton Friedman put it, business actions should maximize profits for the owners of a business but do so within the law (Salazar 17). Based on individualism, Intel was doing exactly what they should have been. Intel was using conflict minerals in order to avoid paying an estimated $3-4 billion to review supply chains to determine whether or not minerals were coming from the conflicted areas of Congo. Using minerals elsewhere would have also raised costs, lowering profit. Therefore, Intel was ethical under individualism even though millions of people were killed in the process while they reaped the benefits of profit.

Congolese child working the gold mines
According to the theory of utilitarianism, the actions of businesses should strive to maximize happiness in the future for all conscious beings that are affected by the business action (Salazar 17). ). It is very clear that the decision for Intel to keep on pursuing these conflict minerals for as long as they did was not based on the theory of utilitarianism. Instead, Intel was thinking only for themselves. Intel was pleasing their employees and customers with the highest possible profits for the company, but this came at the cost of millions of lives in the Congo. Not all conscious beings were happy with the results of Intel's controversy.

The ethical theory of Kantianism states one should always act in ways that honor and respect individuals and the choices they make. One should not lie or cheat in order for personal gain (Salazar 17). In this case, Intel did the exact opposite of what Kant says to do. Intel was using the innocent Congolese as a mere means to get what they wanted, and that is, minerals at a cheap price. Whether it was intended or not, Intel was flat out using these people while they were losing their lives just to try to provide for their families. Intel should have considered everyone involved in the situation and figured out who they were really harming.

Virtue Theory 
The virtue theory states that a business is to act to exemplify a variety of virtuous or good character traits and to avoid vicious or bad character traits (Salazar 17). In Intel's case, the vices heavily outweigh the virtues. Although Intel appeared to be virtuous in their decision of the pursuit of conflict minerals, they were participating in an activity that could have led to vices and deceptive practices. Intel had the courage to admit they were wrong, but they lacked prudence, temperance, and concern for the health of the workers in Congo.

Justified Ethics Evaluation
It is unknown Intel’s role in the conflict mineral case could have been prevented entirely. However, there are many things that Intel could have done differently in order to prevent the severity of what happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because of Intel's leadership in their industry, they could have pulled out of Congo and exposed the problem to a worldwide scale. By doing this, it would have forced companies under them to also pull out or else they would have received bad publicity from their continued use. Intel could have forced faster reform and stopped the mayhem that was going on in the Congo before close to five million people were killed. Intel made the right decision by becoming one of the first companies to announce going conflict-free, but by then the damage had already been done.


Gettlemen, J. (n.d.). Conflict Minerals. Retrieved October 21, 2015, from

Hall, M. (n.d.). Intel Corporation | American company. Retrieved October 21, 2015, from

Heath, N. (n.d.). How conflict minerals funded a war that killed millions, and why tech giants are finally cleaning up their act - TechRepublic. Retrieved October 21, 2015, from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-conflict-minerals-funded- a-war-that-killed-millions/

O'Neill, T. (2014, January 11). Intel's Ban on Conflict Minerals Wows National Geographic Photographer. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140109-conflict-minerals- intel-marcus-bleasdale-congo/

Salazar, Heather. The Business Ethics Case Manual: The Authoritative Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business.

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