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Consoles take a complicated route to get from us – all the way from being minerals in the ground to being assembled in factories across the world. A close look at how this happens reveals ethical and logistical difficulties worth talking about. Varying labor laws, outsourced work, and even worker reluctance make factories hard to inspect for good working conditions. Further down the chain, the raw minerals used in consoles often come from war-torn regions such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where local militias seize control of the mines and use them to raise funds to propagate their brutal civil war. The electronics industry has gotten better about rejecting conflict minerals, but it’s far from perfect. Microsoft and Sony are part of industry organizations to track and reduce abuse along supply chains, but Nintendo has only made small steps and simply refuses to collaborate with the rest of the tech industry to help solve this problem. Console manufacturers can still do more by putting a bigger focus on supply chain audits, voicing support for laws that would improve nationwide standards, being vocal to draw attention to these issues, and giving factories a bigger lead time for product launches. As consumers, we need to understand the impact our demand for launch day console availability has on pushing more unsafe labor practices and consider whether a small price increase (perhaps as little as $5) to guarantee that our consoles were manufactured without conflict minerals would really be too much of a price to pay.
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