Nancy K. Friedrich
Counterfeit parts. Factories in poor countries, where wages are minimal and working conditions are terrible. Nefarious customers, who may be working to acquire technology for harmful end goals like terrorism. In today's global market, business is fraught with risks, threats, and moral dilemmas. It takes great dedication to reduce or eliminate even the unintentional support of such negative ventures. But it can be done. As of December 1, 2011, for example, AVX Corp. (www.avx.com) announced that all of its current tantalum powder and wire suppliers are fully compliant with the independently audited Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFS).
In parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), natural resourcesparticularly mineralsare looted to support war efforts. Such minerals often end up being bought by electronics companies to manufacture devices like mobile phones and laptops. Going forward, AVX will only use tantalum powder and wire from conflict-free-compliant smelters. This move helps the company provide verifiable assurance to its customers that all AVX products contain only conflict-free tantalumin accordance with the principles of the Dodd-Frank legislation and current Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines.
In most cases, such changes cannot simply be made overnight. The world is complicated in terms of the various issues we must faceboth as individuals and in business. Beyond conflict-filled zones, there are myriad issues to consider, such as the treatment of workers and adherence to environmental standards. Even as individuals, it is hard to know which cause to support when so many are valid and need our help.
At the time of this writing, it is the holiday season. I personally have been drowning in requests for donations to help homeless pets, feed the hungry, educate children in Africa, support cancer research, and more. At a time of year that is supposed to be cheerful, it is easy to feel saddened and overwhelmed by all of these requestsespecially when most of us can only afford to pick one or two to support. Simply stated, we live in a time of great need, and we cannot solve all of anyone's problems. As AVX has shown, however, we can act in a positive fashion to put some sort of improvement in action.
For the past 10 years, for example, it has been the company's policy to not use tantalum sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo or any other area in which insurgents or similar groups benefit from the sale of minerals. From 2007 onward, the firm increased the level of due diligence and improved its ability to comply with this policy. Since 2009, AVX has actively participated in the industry-wide effort to eliminate "conflict minerals" from the supply chain through the CFS program. The company is also working with multiple stakeholder partnersincluding major electronics companies like Motorola Solutions, HP, and Intelin the Solutions for Hope pilot program.
From the individual to company basis, we all can choose which change or changes we want to elicitbe it in our personal lives or the world at largeand work to make them happen step by step. May 2012 be a year in which great things happen!