Editorial Insights

The evil behind our pleasures: conflict materials in technology


The evil behind our pleasures conflict materials in technology_Sourcing_Sage Sustainable ElectronicsThat smartphone in your pocket? It comes at an intense cost. And we’re not just talking greenbacks, either. Much of what makes your apps tick comes from remote areas of the globe, where the natives are restless, and companies are turning a blind eye. But that’s only part of the story.

Cobalt. Tantalum. Gold. More than edgy MMORPG avatar names, these are just some of the precious minerals that make up the components of many of today’s electronic devices. The problem is, these minerals are most abundant in war-torn regions like the Congo. And companies pay big bucks to get these minerals. Now, where do you think that money goes?

Digital violence is not just in video games

Unfortunately, in many of the countries that contain these mines, the government is either non-existent, or busy dealing with massive political unrest. This means much of the governing forces are militant and use the money from the mines to fund ongoing violent measures. Weapons, intel, and human trafficking get financial backing while families, communities, and children are left to fend for themselves.

The situation is grim, and our country’s consumer mindset keeps pushing companies to fund these tragic economies. But we said there’s another part to this story, and it comes in the form of circular ITAM and conscientious ITAD processes.

What is circular ITAM?

We’ve been pushing for sustainability since we first opened for business. And as we look for more ways to better use retired technology, we’ve discovered the ongoing potential for corporate impact. The circular economy turns waste materials into source material for processes.

ITAM is an acronym for IT Asset Management, and is the way small-to-massive-sized businesses handle the upgrades inherent to a digital workplace. That laptop you’re using won’t be as useful three years from now, but what happens to it when you upgrade? Now apply that to 200 employees. That’s ITAM.

Circular ITAM, then, is routing those older digital devices back to the company for redeployment; or back to your employees for personal use; or to charitable donations that address the digital divide. ITAD is Asset Disposition, or the destruction of devices. This, too, can be circular by employing e-Steward standards to the recycling process which sustainably harvests precious materials from the devices they obtain.

So how does recycling outmoded technology help the Congo?

The major motivation for mining cobalt alongside militant forces is because the cobalt Apple put in your iPhone is gone; stuck in your phone’s battery. But, by recycling the technology that we as Americans tire of, we create a secondary—safer and more ethical—cache of materials for manufacturers to choose from. This lessens the need to fund militant forces across the globe while reducing the e-waste that poisons the air and water around landfills.

But what can I do?

If you are an IT professional, you understand the upgrade treadmill that businesses are running on. By employing a conscientious ITAD program, you can reduce the strain of the treadmill, enhance the lives of your community, and increase the bottom line of your business. But most importantly, you can help to stop funding the evil lurking behind our devices.

About Sage

Sage Sustainable Electronics leads the market in sustainable IT asset management and disposition (ITAD) by reusing more and recycling less. Every year, businesses retire millions of used-but-still-useful technology products, creating the fastest growing business and consumer waste stream in the world. We strategically and passionately help companies reuse more and recycle less than anyone else in the industry.

For Businesses: Schedule a pickup for your retired computers, servers, printers and more.

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For Individuals: Shop for refurbished tech at amazing prices, backed by The Sage Promise.

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