On September 19, 2014, Intel Corporation CEO Brian Krzanich joined Michael Posner at NYU Stern to discuss how the company responded to allegations that Intel’s sourcing of gold, tungsten, tin and tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo was funding militant violence and human rights atrocities.
Krzanich said he told his colleagues, “We are engineers, we can do this.” He assigned his best supply chain experts to address the human rights risks, just as they would other sourcing problems.
In the conversation at Stern, Krzanich was frank about Intel’s internal considerations, including whether to leave the DRC altogether – which he described as the easiest option, but one that would be economically devastating to the DRC. The company ran polls to determine whether customers would pay more for conflict-free chips; when the answer was no, he knew he had to make alterations within budget.
The company committed to identifying the human rights risks and redesigning their sourcing in a way that was transparent, traceable, and accountable, with a third-party audit process to ensure safer practices for workers. In January 2014, Intel announced the first conflict-free microprocessor, and has committed that all of its products will be conflict free by 2016.
Intel treated the problem not as a side project, but as part of their core operations. Krzanich emphasized that the company has been transparent about its process and encouraged industry-wide standards for other companies to adopt. Krzanich concluded, “I believe that, in the long-run, if you build a company to do the right thing, you’ll get a return on investment.”
Katharine Kendrick is a Policy Associate. She focuses on tech issues.