Your buying habits really can make a difference.
Ten years ago, Rabbi Harold Schulweis stepped up to the pulpit of his Los Angeles synagogue and gave a sermon that would save hundreds of thousands of lives. With the memory of the Holocaust hanging over his head, the Rabbi called on his congregation to mobilize for Darfur, doing whatever it could to stop the genocide that was emerging.
From that humble and heartfelt beginning, Jewish World Watch (JWW) has grown to become a global leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities by empowering everyday people with the knowledge and the belief that they can be agents of change. In that spirit, JWW has also become a leading advocate for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in their fight for conflict-free* minerals.
“Our collective power as consumers is a remarkably effective tool in advocacy,” says Vaughan Meyer, JWW advocacy chair. “However, it takes partners in the private sector, like Intel, to create socially responsible products – and develop models that others can follow. By working together, consumer advocates and companies can transform communities in Congo and save lives.”
With an on-the-ground constituency of more than 375,000 people, JWW has organized high schools, universities, faith groups and others across California to declare their institutions “conflict-free zones.” The organization pushed for legislation in the California Legislature and U.S. Congress requiring companies to trace and audit their mineral supply chains – and brought public awareness to the conflict minerals issue as the host of the Walk to End Genocide – the nation’s largest anti-genocide rally.
Below, JWW shares five tips for successful consumer advocacy:
Learn the facts. Education is the first step of becoming a successful advocate. It’s critical to understand how and why the multi-million dollar trade in minerals that power our lives has fueled Congo’s conflict – the deadliest since World War II. You need to know the facts to clearly explain why others should pay closer attention to what’s in their cell phone, desk lamp or car motor. Check out these educational resources from Jewish World Watch and the Enough Project for more info.
Buy smart. More companies are now actively pursuing conflict-free supply chains. Support responsible sourcing by checking out buying guides, like this one from the Enough Project, for more info on the companies leading the way.
Speak up. When consumers speak out, companies listen. Email. Call. Write. Share your conflict-free purchasing decisions with friends on social media. Let companies know that you will be more likely to buy their products if they source from conflict-free mines. And tell them you’ll reward them for being proactive on the issue – for instance, by helping drive awareness for the In Pursuit of Conflict-Free campaign.
Rally your community. Does your campus or workplace have a conflict-free procurement policy? How about your place of worship, community center or local government? You can increase your impact exponentially by mobilizing these institutions to join the consumer advocate movement.
Play the long game. Real change takes years. As we work to build a legitimate market for Congo’s minerals that benefits the country’s people, it is important to provide other support that helps communities to rebuild after decades of conflict. From education for former child soldiers and sex slaves to health care for survivors of sexual assault to working with men to combat and prevent future violence, there are many ways to support Congo’s people to build a brighter future.
Both Intel and JWW are working to stem the flow of dollars that fund armed groups in Congo. This year, JWW presents its iWitness Award – the group’s highest community honor – to Intel in recognition of the company’s achievement of using only conflict-free minerals in the manufacture of their processors and their stated goal of making all their products conflict-free in 2016.
Jewish World Watch contributed to this story.
* “Conflict free” and “conflict-free” means “DRC conflict free”, which is defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules to mean products that do not contain conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and/or gold) that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or adjoining countries. We also use the term “conflict-free” in a broader sense to refer to suppliers, supply chains, smelters and refiners whose sources of conflict minerals do not finance conflict in the DRC or adjoining countries.