Valve and Sony face questions over use of conflict minerals

Steven Rondina • August 5, 21:27

One might not expect gaming consoles and cell phones to be directly linked to human rights abuses, but in reality they very well may be.

Each year, many top tech companies disclose where they source materials such as gold and tin that they use to produce electronics devices. The purpose of these disclosures is to identify companies that are purchasing materials from countries that have poor working conditions and those that are perpetuating armed conflicts abroad. Several of the minerals used to produce electronics have industries functionally identical to those of blood diamonds.

Publicly traded companies are compelled to do this by the United States government. Some are part of business agreements that require statements. Others issue reports to stakeholders regarding their social impact around the globe.

Among the list of companies that submitted reports compiled by GamesIndustry.biz are tech juggernauts Apple, Google, and Facebook. All three major gaming console manufacturers are also included in the report, as are a number of gaming peripheral manufacturers including Logitech, Razer, and Turtle Beach. 

Each of these companies has dozens or even hundreds of suppliers that they work with in order to produce gaming hardware. Some that have strict standards in regards to where their materials come from, while others seemingly turn a blind eye to potentially dirty dealings. Then there are other companies that refuse to submit reports or even discuss the matter at all.

Valve and Sony get unflattering look on conflict minerals

Many companies make a point of procuring manufacturing materials from sources that obtain them only from reputable mining companies. 

After identifying serious issues in its supply chain, Apple made aggressive moves to remedy potential problems with its material sourcing and has largely stamped out this particular issue, even if the company remains problematic in other ways.

Microsoft is an example of a company that was not reviewed quite as well as Apple, but had a generally good record or were improving relative to years past. 

Towards the bottom of the list of companies were Sony and Valve.

Sony is publicly traded and issued a detailed report noting that a significant percentage of its supplier network sources refused to answer questions on whether they were funding conflicts. Sony acknowledged that this was an issue and stated it would take action next year. 

While that might sound fine, this has been a cycle that has repeated annually with Sony since 2017. While the problem is known, Sony is seemingly disinterested in actually remedying it.

Valve looks to be even less interested in resolving the matter. While Valve is primarily known for its software, the company has been manufacturing hardware since 2014 with the Steam Machine line of PCs, Steam Link, and Steam Controller. Valve has most recently been shipping its Valve Index VR headset.

Valve is not legally required to submit reports, and has not done so. The publisher has not responded to inquiries regarding the matter, further obfuscating where it sources its materials from.

WIN.gg reached out to both Sony and Valve on this, but no response has been given as of publication.

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