Driving Social Change Around the World
Nearly all mobile phones, computers, and the microprocessors that power them contain some combination of four minerals: gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten. When Intel Corporation learned that many of these minerals come from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo that are controlled by armed militias funding violence in the region, it decided to take action so that it was not inadvertently supporting the conflict.
In January, Intel announced that it had achieved a key milestone: The company is now manufacturing the world’s first microprocessors validated to be free of these “conflict minerals.” Since Intel made that announcement, Lori McMahon has been leading the company’s efforts to engage consumer audiences in the conflict minerals issue, helping them learn what’s in their electronic devices and educating them about how they can get involved.
Over the past few years, McMahon says, Intel visited more than 70 smelters, which refine raw ore into metals, to verify they were not buying minerals from the militia-controlled mines. Now Intel is entering a new phase of the initiative, focused on helping other companies eliminate conflict minerals from their products and educating the public about the issue.
“Consumers can vote with their pocketbooks,” McMahon says. “We don’t believe that someone is going to rush out to buy a computer with a conflict-free microprocessor, but the next time they are in market to buy one, they might think about it.”
The conflict minerals program is the latest example of how Mc-Mahon has dedicated her career to working on sustainability within the corporate world. In her previous position, McMahon managed Intel for Change, an initiative focused on raising awareness of girls’ unequal access to education around the world.
Because Millennials are the target audience for Intel for Change, the company selected three college students through a national competition to serve as “ambassadors” and travel with a team to Kenya, Ecuador, or India. In each country, the students learned how local barriers to education for girls were being addressed and developed ideas for a project on their own college campus that would contribute toward closing this gender gap.
Working on sustainability issues for Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., is a dream job for McMahon, who chose sustainability as her immersion at Johnson. “I feel proud that the work I am doing connects the dots between Intel’s passion for these issues and a whole generation of inspired young people that have the desire and power to drive change on huge global social issues,” she says.