Useless lawsuits

The article describes a lawsuit against tech companies that buy cobalt for use in their products, because the cobalt is produced by companies that use child labor and don’t adequately protect their adult and child laborers.

But what can the defendants do? They don’t control the suppliers. Even if they have clauses in their contracts that specify some restrictions like not using child labor, they don’t know if these are really being followed. They’d have to send inspectors to observe the production from start to finish and have enough of these at every point of contact so the supplier can’t sneak something past them. That’s expensive. Switching suppliers is also expensive. If they are the only ones doing it, they would be facing a significant competitive disadvantage.

The court is right to dismiss this lawsuit, it is useless. The companies are not committing any crime.

To project our values and ethics to the rest of the world, we would need a law that prohibits companies from buying or importing products known to be produced with child labor, or any human rights abuse that we wish to avoid.

This will affect all national companies equally, such that none of them suffer individually from trying to do the right thing while others don’t. It will also protect the national companies from international competition because if any of their international competitors source their cobalt or other materials or components from suppliers that use child labor, their products cannot be imported here and cannot compete with the national companies. Only international companies that follow the same rule can compete, and therefore whatever higher prices are involved in sourcing ethical materials and components will affect all competitors equally.

Finally, the same law must make it illegal for any individual to import such products or carry them into he country, to deter and be able to punish individuals trying to buy cheap overseas and bring in alternatives that don’t comply with the law.

If we really want to solve a problem we have to do it in the right place. Useless lawsuits just waste time and money and put people in adversarial relationships instead of collaborative relationships.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *