The recent decision by AMD to name a new computer chip “Congo” has to go down in marketing history as one of the cruelest decisions ever made. Here’s the letter I sent in response:
June 8, 2009
Mr. Dirk Meyer
Chief Executive Officer
PO Box 3453
Sunnyvale, CA 94088-3453
Dear Mr. Meyer:
Your company’s recent decision to name a new microchip “Congo” is astoundingly heartless and ill-informed. Did you really mean to link your product to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis?
Nearly six million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1998 and the death toll continues to mount as fighting over the country’s mineral resources continues. Currently, more than a million Congolese have been driven from their homes and farms by the fighting in the Eastern provinces. It is estimated that 250,000 women have been brutally raped and mutilated by armed groups seeking to control communities where mines are located.
Among the prizes that fuel this conflict are gold, tungsten, coltan, and cassiterite. Coltan, as you know, is a source of tantalum, a mineral used in the manufacture of capacitors widely used in many electronics including ultra-thin laptops like the ones destined to be powered by your “Congo” chips. Tin, a key material in the production of many electronic components, comes from cassiterite. Both ores are mined under horrific conditions in the DRC from deposits controlled by various militias and rebel groups. The Enough Project estimates that these groups generate some $144 million from the illicit trade in these and other minerals. Those profits buy weapons that have killed millions of people and threaten to destroy the nation known as “Congo.”
While your new chip may not include these minerals, connecting the product to the conflict is an incredibly bad idea. Your statement of corporate responsibility reads in part:
“Our success in business is built on a core value of respect for people. From our employees around the world, to our customers and partners, to the families who live in the communities where we operate – people come first and foremost.”
On behalf of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I urge you to fulfill that promise and change this product name. I also call on you to commit to policing your supply chain to ensure that your company’s purchases do not contribute to the abuse and deaths of innocent people.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Author of Heart of Diamonds
If you’d like to email this message (or your own) to AMD, feel free: Investor.Relations@amd.com