Analysis: Has Public Opinion About Conflict Minerals Impacted Consumer Electronics Sales?

The Elm Consulting Group International LLC has released an analysis of whether a discernible correlation exists between consumer sentiment on conflict minerals and consumer buying decisions in the electronics industry.  The report provides valuable insight to companies planning conflict minerals management programs, public messaging initiatives and related internal expectations.

We recognize that 2011 is the first year of broad public awareness about conflict minerals.  It is possible there has not been enough time for the topic to have permeated consumer consciousness and priorities.  In addition, perhaps the consumer sentiment rankings we relied on are not viewed as valid, credible, accurate or actionable by the general public*.  These points are valid, but this is the best information currently available.

The analysis concludes:

Based on the findings from this small sample, consumers are not likely to differentially punish or reward companies (in financially material sales figures) in response to conflict minerals disclosures or programs, at least in the near term.

Supporting this conclusion, we highlighted a contrast between HP and Apple.  For 2011, HP ranked number 1 in the Enough Project ratings; Apple ranked in the middle tier of the ratings and also was the subject of intense public criticism over corporate social responsibility matters, specifically including its conflict minerals status.  Yet HP’s consumer products revenues fell 2% (2011 compared to 2010), in contrast to Apple’s 66% increase in the same period.  Factors other than conflict minerals appear to be far more relevant to each company’s financial performance.

* Note:  Inclusion of and references to the Enough Project, Raise Hope for Congo and Getting to Conflict Free is not an endorsement, nor do we imply the rankings are valid, credible or accurate.  Our use of the rankings only reflects (a) the limitation that no other specifically-targeted indicators currently exist and (b) that they are intended for the general public/consumers.

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