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Axel Springer and Conflict Minerals

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Axel Springer – Conflict Minerals

Who are the stakeholders involved in this case? Identify and analyze each stakeholder group.

Throughout the readings for this assignment, numerous stakeholders have been identified as either major or minor participants in this multi-national, multi-social-economic and multi-layered story.  The interaction between these participants is usually convoluted with twists and unintended outcomes that regularly complicate the situation instead of remedying any issue.

The first and primary stakeholder is Axel Springer, who has an unquestionable commitment to integrity and to sustainable commerce.  Their history of this commitment can be traced to their engagement in the sustainability of trees combined with the manufacturing of paper in the past and continues with their bi-annual sustainability report.  Because of their authorship of this report, they would be a key player in this topic, but because their product, digital media, is heavily delivered on mobile devices, they are a participant in this matter.  They also have a significant investment in digital media and its creation and distribution.  Thus Axel Springer is a participant from many perspectives and cannot be casually engaged in this topic.  They have much to lose from a reputation perspective as well as the delivery of their product.  For all of these reasons, Axel Springer is a major player.

A second stakeholder is the mobile device manufacturing industry.  As processors of the mined elements, this group could be considered isolated from the conflict minerals by some, but some responsibility falls to this group to prevent exploitation closer to the source.  These companies are being called to action and graded by other identified groups in this paper (Callaway, 2017).  The future of their business is at stake should this issue not be resolved, thus they too are a significant player.  If the auto industry would be a player in an energy conflict, then the mobile device manufacturers are a patron in this topic.

A third and perhaps most personally involved stakeholder would be the miners and the general population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (DRC).  The miners are estimated to be approximately 800,000 in number with an additional eight to 10 million Congolese inhabitants who are heavily reliant on this industry (Radley & Vogel, 2015).  Closely related to the previous group would be the Congolese militant groups who are perhaps the first level exploiters in this entire chain of events.  Another group that can be identified as related, but offering a unique perspective, is the government of DRC.  The DRC has been singled out as a substantial stakeholder in conflict minerals and the center of human right violations related to the mining of coltan, wolframite, gold and other metals used in electronic devices.  Additionally, it is also one of the poorest countries and one of the most conflict involved losing 5.5 million people in armed conflicts (Bejou, 2016).  These people groups in the DRC are at the center of the conflict, but could also be labeled at the most vulnerable and least in control of their own destiny of all the stakeholders.

Another invested party is the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are combined with advocacy groups and also industry groups who all seek to inform other participants and the world at large about the issues and occurrences involved in this topic.  The engagement of this group is wide-ranging and their actions may or may not always be beneficial to the issues related to conflict minerals.  Unforeseen consequences in this complex problem sometimes occur and an action to benefit the situation can create other problems.  An early intervention by this group is the 2001 recommendation by a United Nations Panel of Experts to initiate an embargo on the trade minerals due to the exploitation by armed groups financing their activities from the trade in these goods (Radley & Vogel, 2015).  This embargo was not mutually beneficial and in some ways worsened some of the problems as the miners suffered by less demand for their product.  This group is a significant stakeholder as they will present solutions from many perspectives, and most often from an altruistic perspective.

Lastly, a group of end users of mobile devices can be identified as a stakeholder.  Their demand for continued new devices and desire for the most economical price continues to stir the issues surrounding the conflict.  Some researchers have suggested to include all members of society as stakeholders as well (Rotter, Airike, & Mark-Herbert. 2013).  The ethical question with this group is how much responsibility does the end consumer own for the sourcing of their products.  There is a new paradigm underway where end users, along with other stakeholders mentioned above, can drive improved conditions along the supply chain of products (Lund-Thomsen & Lindgreen, 2014).

The list of stakeholders is exceptionally diverse and could be grouped by their engagement in this topic such as producers of the good (miners, device manufacturers), advocates for the participants, (Axel Springer, DRC government, NGOs) and benefactors (Axel Springer, miners, Congolese militants, manufacturers of devices, consumers of mobile devices).  No matter the grouping, the complexities of the scenario requires creative solutions, from a multitude of perspectives to accomplish mutually beneficial outcomes.  These stakeholders can represent selfish perspectives, but most desire mutually beneficial outcomes and solutions.

Does Axel Springer have a responsibility regarding the use of conflict minerals in technology?

        Axel Springer most definitely has a responsibility to take on the case of conflict minerals as they are utilized in the manufacturing of mobile devices and other technologies which are used to distribute digital media.  Furthermore, as a vocal advocate for the sustainability initiative and global and economic involvement in the issue, they also have a role and interest to be fully engaged in the consumption of conflict minerals.  Lastly, since Axel Springer has invested so much of its reputation as being a bastion of integrity, they must answer with active engagement on this issue (Hoffmann, Muller & Bhattacharya, 2014).

        Axel Springer is an enormous company as listed in the Forbes Global 2000, in 2015 (Forbes, 2015).  As a major company on the worldwide stage, they have a responsibility to be involved in this issue.  The worldwide population is evolving toward holding corporations accountable for their commitment to international human rights and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting (Bejou, 2016).  Additionally, for the past five years, Axel Springer has been reconfiguring its business lines and initiatives to further penetrate the digital media market (Lanzolla & Giudici, 2017).  With a large sphere of influence due in part to its size and its promotion of CSR through its reporting, Axel Springer has a responsibility of engagement.  When added to its own planned capturing of future digital media trends, they must have a seat at the table as solutions are pursued.



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