Image credit: www.visitfinland.com
Update: 11 May 2017. My optimism was misplaced. I received, via Laura Okkonen, a letter full of corporate waffle with no offer of practical help from Nokia. Have since written back… nothing in response… yet.
Below is my follow-up email to Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia, and Laura Okkonen of Corporate Affairs. Laura’s response to my first email was short but I definitely felt there was warmth in it. Nokia’s headquarters are in Finland. I don’t know any Finns, so I looked at this website: www.visitfinland.com
I am wholly encouraged to read:
Finnish people are warm, open and sincere, even though they might tell you the exact opposite. If you’ve ever met a Finn, chances are they’ve mentioned the reserved nature of their countrymen. Be not afraid – we’re not taciturn brutes. Finns are talkative and hospitable, but the myth of the withdrawn Finn is still alive and well inside Finland. And Finns, with their self-deprecating wit, will be the first to let foreigners in on it. An example of a Finnish joke: “An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes”.
Rajeev Suri was born in New Delhi, but now he lives in Espoo, Finland. I think Laura Okkonen may be Finnish. Watch the film – it’s lovely.
And in Finland you can see the Northern Lights. You need to really embrace the experience, apparently.
Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia, looks like a man who knows how to enjoy the Auroras Antti. Not sure, but that may even be Rajeev Suri! It is, below, and I hope he reads my email.
From: Flinty Maguire, Cobalt Children [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 21 April 2017 17:09
To: ‘Okkonen, Laura (Nokia – FI/Espoo)’ <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: ‘Catherine Mutindi’ <email@example.com>; Kimbilio Ian Harvey (firstname.lastname@example.org) <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ <email@example.com>
Subject: FAO Mr Rajeev Suri, CEO Nokia re Cobalt Children, DR Congo #Follow-up email
Dear Mr Rajeev Suri, and Laura Okkonen,
Following up on my previous email to you, I have additional information to give.
The Sky News story about Dorsen and Richard, child cobalt miners in the DR Congo, has had a huge impact. On the Sky News Facebook page, it has had more than 43.5 million views and 835k shares. Consumers are more aware of human rights abuses and the ugly backstory of lithium-ion batteries found, for example, in smartphones.
Link to Dorsen and Richard Facebook film: facebook.com/skynews/videos/1659591590722098
The Dorsen and Richard film is compelling and emotive. With few words, these children inform us of their struggle for survival, the pain and misery, and the exploitation they suffer at the hands of those who trade and utilise cobalt. We’ve been in touch with Alex Crawford, the journalist who put together this report. Following my latest email to Sky News, yesterday, Nick Ludlam, Africa Editor of Sky News has been in touch with a colleague, Ian Harvey, who runs a charity supporting street children in Lubumbashi. Nick has also requested my phone number. Sky plan to locate Dorsen and Richard to offer them assistance. Sky also plan to make contact with Sister Catherine Mutindi of The Good Shepherd Sisters, in Kolwezi, a project that rescues children from cobalt mines. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up report.
I heard from Sister Catherine Mutindi on Tuesday 18 April. There are more developments. This is what she had to say:
“Just some updates from Kolwezi: Today we (Bon Pasteur Kolwezi) had a meeting with Huayou Bryce Lee and some other CDM officials. They have made some strategic moves in responding to the issues raised by Amnesty International and Sky News, particularly on child labour in the chain of cobalt provision as well as safe mining for crasseurs. Their implemented tracking system seem to work in two artisanal mines around Kawama, and they are investing in expanding this experience to other carrieres.”
Mark Dummett of Amnesty International is also following up on the report on human rights abuses in DR Congo cobalt mines, generated last year entitled: This is what we die for. Amnesty International found that very few downstream companies purchasing cobalt, or products containing cobalt, had taken steps to meet even the most basic due diligence requirements.
I understand that Nokia has been proactive in promoting good standards and practice. It would be wonderful if you entered into a meaningful dialogue with us on how we could devise ways to highlight issues of exploitation attached to mineral mining in DR Congo, and how you, as a company, and your customers, could join forces to assist such people in a practical way.
I have canvased several companies with the same request. Samsung responded by sending me two separate but identical emails containing standard text. No attention was given to my concerns or questions. Samsung maintains “a zero tolerance policy on child labor” and yet, in the Amnesty International report, Samsung stated that: “…it is impossible for us to determine whether the cobalt supplied to Samsung SDI comes from DRC Katanga’s mines.” As you can see, their zero tolerance policy on child labour is meaningless in the case of cobalt mined in the DRC.
I believe that what consumers want is open and honest dialogue about this issue; and a desire to work towards reparation. We cannot simply move on. There is a history of suffering and exploitation attached to technology. We all need to make good the damage we have done, knowingly or otherwise. If a few pence were added to every relevant unit sold in aid of Congolese welfare, children’s lives would be transformed and, with investment, adult artisanal miners might experience safe and fair employment. Products could be branded purposefully for consumers who want to buy items based on fair trade principles and ethical practice. I am sure there are countless ways money could be raised without damage to corporate profit margins, and those funds could be utilized to facilitate independence and wellbeing for the cobalt children and creusseurs.
You are the only company, so far, who has had the grace to respond to me with a personal email. There is a strong possibility that the Dorsen and Richard story will be followed through on Sky News.
This is a chance for Nokia to take a lead where customers and corporates unite to promote fair trade and ethical practice. I am hopeful that you will support our objectives.
With thanks and all good wishes,
Dear Mr Maguire,
Many thanks for contacting us. We will most definitely come back to you in more detail on the below by May 1st.
In the meanwhile, should there be any additional questions you would like us to provide further insights on in our reply to follow, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
From: Flinty Maguire, Cobalt Children [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 3:18 PM
To: Services, Press (Nokia – Global) <email@example.com>
Cc: Dematteo, Carol (Nokia – US/Irving) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Samson, Anne (Nokia – FR/Asnieres-sur-Seine) <email@example.com>; Relations, Government (Nokia – Global) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FAO Mr Rajeev Suri, CEO Nokia
Dear Mr Rajeev Suri,
I posted a letter to you on the 4 April 2017. I attach it here again.
I wish to draw your attention to the Sky News report: “Inside the Congo mines that exploit children”. The report deals with the mining of cobalt used in lithium ion batteries in profitable and widely used items such as smartphones and laptops.
The Sky News report features Dorsen, an 8 year old boy who mines cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He works 12 hours a day for as little as eight British pence. This Sky News report triggered the Cobalt Children campaign to ask companies, such as yours, to organize help for these children and creusseurs.
The Sky News report is posted on Facebook has had 43 million views and has been shared over 834,000 times. There are over 150,000 comments.
Here is the link to the report: https://www.facebook.com/skynews/videos/1659591590722098/
I am sure you will agree that this overwhelming response from the general public to the issue of child labour in cobalt mines, and the exploited labour of creusseurs, warrants comment and action from your company.
I appreciate you need to consider your response which I look forward to receiving on or before 1st May, 2017. From now, until that date, Dorsen may have worked 168 hours of hard labour mining cobalt, which may include being beaten, starved and injured. This child, and others like him, need our collective help and they need it soon. We cannot let this issue go on for more years. It shames us all.
Please respond by email to the address provided: email@example.com
Your response will be shared on the website: www.cobaltchildren.org and on social media. Be assured, I will help in any way I can to assist these children and creusseurs.
Many thanks and kind regards,