Shea's Domain
Last update
2020-01-29 04:34:35


    [The] dilemma extended far beyond the well-publicized abusive working conditions at Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant that assembles Apple’s iPhone, along with countless other consumer electronic devices. Labor and environmental abuses are endemic throughout the global electronics industry, from the mining of the minerals used to make the basic components, through their assembly and all the way up to (and beyond) the disposal of last year’s obsolete model. There’s no getting around the hard truth: right now, there is no such thing as an “ethical smartphone.” Or, for that matter, an ethical flat-screen TV, digital camera or any kind of personal computer.

    there is “no ideal solution.” For every smartphone manufacturer, “the model of globalized production is fundamentally similar.”

    So if you are looking for shopping recommendations, you will be disappointed. But that doesn’t necessarily imply despair — or that there isn’t any chance at all of improving working conditions for electronics workers around the world. If enough people organize and apply pressure, anything’s possible. And ironically, billions of people around the world are now in possession of the most powerful tools for facilitating grass-roots organization ever invented: ethically compromised smartphones!

    At the website for MakeITfair, a “European project” dedicated to exposing labor abuses and environmental problems in electronics manufacturing (the “IT” stands for “information technology”), curious visitors can delve as deeply as they like into reports documenting woes at every step of the global supply chain. Mistreatment of coltan miners in the Congo. Labor abuses in the production of game consoles in China, mobile phones in India, and digital cameras in Vietnam. To close out the cycle, there is even an investigation of the health hazards involving in dumping old computers and other e-waste in Ghana.

    Reviewing the information is a troubling experience. As Auret van Heerden, president of the Fair Labor Association has said, “none of us want to be accessories after the fact in a human rights abuse in the global supply chain.” But escaping from the crime scene is hard. No matter how enlightened a consumer you might intend to be, outside of retiring to a cave and subsisting on a diet of nuts and berries there is virtually no way to avoid getting trapped in the web of global exploitation complicity. Phones, video games, TVs — heck, there’s a non-negligible chance that your coffee maker has a circuit board connected to Congo coltan mining profits that subsidize rape and murder in Africa and sweatshop child labor somewhere in Asia. How’s that for a wakeup call?

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    It’s an unfortunate fact that there’s basically nothing you can do in today’s world that doesn’t benefit terrible people that exploit others, not even put on clothes or eat. But now that it’s been brought to your attention, there are steps that you can take to reduce how much misery you’re personally subsidizing. 

    For electronics (like the ones you’re using to read this), you can use this 2016 Free Ethical Electronics Guide. It includes a simplified version if you don’t have the time to spend on the more comprehensive one. 

    For products in general, you can use the Ethical Consumer website, which can be personalized “in a way that accurately reflects the issues that are most important to you - be that animal testing, climate change, sweatshop labour, GM crops, nuclear power or whatever.”

    Hopefully, now that it has been brought to your attention, you will actually change your shopping habits in a way that can reduce these kinds of horrible behavior.