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29 June 2013 | Adam Leach
Human rights activists dressed up as computer game character Super Mario and surrounded the Nintendo World Store in New York this week in a protest against the games maker's supply chain policy.
Campaign group Walk Free is targeting the Japanese company, which owns characters such as Mario, Koopa Troopa and Princess Peach, because it believes Nintendo has not done enough to ensure conflict materials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) do not enter its supply chain. Campaigners criticised the company over its conflict-free policy, which they say passes responsibility to its subcontractors, rather than taking control itself.
Conflict minerals include elements like tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (sometimes referred to as ‘3TG metals’). Many of these come from the DRC and the purchase of these metals is alleged to fuel armed conflict in the DRC.
Debra Rosen, movement director at Walk Free, said: “Several CEOs of other leading consumer electronics companies have spoken out on their commitment to this issue, and we’d love for Nintendo to do the same.”
The company said in a statement: “Nintendo has procurement guidelines in place that ban the use of conflict materials by our production partners and suppliers.” It also stated that it requires suppliers to complete questionnaires and visits the facilities of production partners to ensure guidelines are followed.
In August 2012, Nintendo was ranked last of 24 companies named in a report by another campaign group, the Enough Project, which scored electronics companies on their action to eradicate conflict materials from supply chains. It scored 0 out of 100. HTC scored 4 and Sharp, Nikon and Canon scored 8.
Enough Project is a not-for-profit organisation that conducts research in several conflict areas in Africa and was founded by a former director of America’s National Security Council. It conducts the scoring every two years. It scored the companies against the following: tracing the origin of materials, auditing suppliers, seeking certification from vendors or using certified suppliers, stakeholder engagement and supporting legislation. Much of the information it bases the scores on is publically available or requested from the businesses themselves. Project Enough said Nintendo didn’t provide any comments on feedback on the findings.
Earlier this year, HP, which was ranked number one by Enough Project in August 2012, published a full list of the smelters used in its supply chain to encourage operators of the facilities to seek conflict-free certification.