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Ethical production. Component sourcing, labor, material, etc
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Author Ethical production. Component sourcing, labor, material, etc
Bricks
I've become increasingly aware that I have only the vaguest ideas of where my components come from, what labor was involved, what earth resources were acquired, what chemicals were required in the refining process and how they were managed, etc. ROHS is a publicized issue, but that seems to be one of the very few.

How do I know what went into creating that Alpha pot, or where Hammond sources their aluminum?

I've been thinking about having PCBs made domestically, where I have some sense of labor, though that still leaves out a lot of the picture.

Most of my outsourced components of fairly well known brands and purchasable from major outlets.. though visits to their websites don't often say much about their creation (nor would I even know what to trust)

Are there legitimate institutional bodies that keep track of this? Makers of common electrical components with highly respected reputations? Part suppliers with great concern for this?

Thoughts on this in general? I know this isn't a simple issue, but I figure it might be worth talking about
valis
I really feel you on this subject and have been having a real big moral dilemma with this as well. Like you said, there's the environmental and humanitarian considerations. Is it all worth it?

I remember when I was a child and learning about the (U.S) Civil War, I couldn't understand how the North would say it was against slavery (I know I'm oversimplifying) but turn their heads and profit so much on the production of those Southern slaves. Sometimes I feel like that person type of person (as I type this on my Dell laptop) who looks the other way while others are exploited just so my products can be a bit cheaper (not even that much cheaper, I heard like 20%!).

So, in short, I don't know. I've been trying to do builds with found materials, and keep my buys as close to ROHS as possible. I try to avoid replacing consumer electronics unless I need to. Often though, I fail and that is a burden for sure.

Thanks for bringing this up. I've wanted to have a post exactly like this but haven't gotten around to articulating all of this.

I wish I had an answer. I love this hobby but don't want to be a further cause of the problem. I guess I'm pretty weak in that regard. I've really been considering stopping my DIY excursions for these reasons. It is possible that after my next build I just might.
maskull
http://goodelectronics.org/

http://www.eicc.info/

http://www.phonestory.org/
meatcliff
check this stuff out:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-th e-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?pagewanted=all

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304911104576445191761247 266.html

http://infochangeindia.org/agenda/occupational-safety-and-health/dark- side-of-the-chip.html

From what I understand about working conditions in mainland China, conditions range from clean factories with 10+ hour shifts, to dirt floor work shops and hazardous chemicals. There is really no way to know for sure where your parts come from, and a lot of companies aren't even aware of who different subcontractors are beyond their main factory. When a company is aware of the conditions, they won't release them for obvious reasons.

One company I've worked with would have sudden changes in quality on different sub assemblies - they call up the factory and they say "hey don't blame us, it's the new ______ contractor!"... we didn't authorize any new ____ contractor!

Sometimes the factories themselves even have websites adding another layer of gloss. http://www.integ-elec.com/English/index.asp

Various labor rights websites/publications may have lists of different corporations and their offending factories (http://www.laborrights.org/) ... and there are occasionally articles in the different electronics trade mags (http://www.edn.com/).

It's definitely an important subject but doesn't get enough coverage. Thankfully I'd like to think that a lot of US/EU based companies focused on quality components (especially with processes that were originally domestic) are more conscious of the conditions than newer sources focusing on offering the cheapest components.
daverj
The vast majority of electronic components come from the far east (China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, India, Singapore, Philippines, etc...)

Even many major companies in the US and Europe that have for decades prided themselves for making components in their local countries are now in partnership with Asian companies to supply a lot of their parts.

The raw materials for many of those parts don't come from the country where the components are made. Often raw materials are mined in one country, refined in another, and turned into products in another.
paults
If this really bothers you it's time for a new hobby.

I blame Walmart. In the '70s and mid-80s, electronics were viewed by the consumers as "mystical" and "magical". Color TV was like Star Trek. A microwave oven cost $600 and rich people owned them. A VCR or camcorder? $1500 for the both. CD player? $450.

All of the above were designed and built in US, with some Japanese parts.

Then here comes Walmart with the $49 microwaves (that burst into flames), the $99 DVD player (ditto) and the $29 CD players (skip skip skip). The the icing on the cake: Apple convinces everyone that music doesn't have to be good. It can be compressed to hell and back AND listened over 11 cent (yes, 11 cent) earbuds. Driven by a DAC/output driver with about 1% THD as good measure.

By the .com implosion of 2000, electronics were actually tagged as EVIL.. All these high-flying stocks that Dead Banana were all TECH STOCKS. Bad electronics! Bad!

The 2000s then started the cellphone craze, or as I like to call it: the Landfill Phase. Hey! every 2 years lets toss it and get a new one. Why? This one is fine. NO! IT'S CRAP YOU NEED THIS NEW SHINY ONE! Ok, at least I can use the old charger, right? NO YOU NEED ALL NEW CHARGERS!! BWAHAHAHAHA!!!

If you don't believe in the Bible or religion or whatever, believe in 1 thing from there:

You reap what you sow.
Dave Kendall
One cool thing about sdiy, is that if you've built a circuit, if it goes wrong, you stand a chance of being able to fix it yourself and keep it going, rather than throwing it away.
That *has* to be a good thing smile


cheers,
Dave
paults
I try to buy "good stuff" that will last longer.

Weller WTCPT soldering iron: 19 years (same base 1 new iron)

TAS475 scope - 11 years

Leader power supply - 16 years

I finally bought last year a new Fluke 87 DVM as my last DVM died after 14 years

My 'desk' phone/answering machine is from 1990 smile
dmitri
Respect for making this thread! real info! a real subject !
thumbs up
fonik
old news: in all modern societies we can observe a fundamental change. the tertiary sector increases, the primary (if existing at all) and secondary sectors decrease: less prodiction, more service. germany did very well in this change until now, others do not (i.e. france).
in fact the added value is created by the service, not the actual production. this is the reason why the production takes place where it is cheap, cheap, cheap. and it does not only refer to electronics. today the most consumer goods are produced in asia (i.e. your fridg).
nevertheless: you can try to make a difference. i.e. fonitronik production modules are made in germany. this means that the PCBs get etched in germany (that's true, and we have rigid laws to protect environment here), they get assembled in germany, and the frontpanels get made in germany - all components come from asia though, that's how it works today.
(BTW i have a cellphone contract without hardware, so i still use my old siemens).

my 2 pence
elemental
I'm not doing DIY but this is def an important subject.
My guess is, if components and all were to be source locally our modules would cost a lot more than they do...

Sometimes I think to get back to purely acoustic instruments. No electricity, factory made components or polluting manufacturing process..

I'm sure there is a way to do electronics without ethical / ecological consequences but don't think we are there yet.

Food for thought.
Moog$FooL$
great thread...... i wish i had something to contribute though. very frustrating

nonetheless, some thoughtful info from you all!!

luv it when i come to Muff's & find this kinda stuff.

thumbs up
Rod Serling Fan Club
Going on what Fonik brought up there is economic theory about developing countries and the stages they go through as far as unionizing, legal rights and whatnot. Over time this transforms a workforce from sweatshops to good working conditions like in the west. Allegedly Korea is an example of this. So the theory goes, as more work goes to cheap places, jobs improve, more money is pumped in the economy, standard of living improves, etc. It's hard to say how this plays out somewhere like china though and I'll admit to being slightly distrustful of economic theories.
elemental
With all due respect I don't buy that kind of economic theory at all. The whole notion that "more work = more money = higher standard of living = better" is the kind of crap we have been fed that has led to many of the problems we have now.

What is standard of living? Is it having a fridge, TV, central heating etc.? Is it happiness?

Check out the film "The Economy of Happiness" its very insightful about this kinda stuff..

I have been getting into food supply issues recently, learning how to grow my own and trying to source as local and organic as possible.

With electronics its a different story... but seems to me, we should be asking similar questions as we do when buy food, i.e. where did it come from, how was it made, and was anything harmed in the process?

Basically, when something is cheap, usually it is not as cheap as it seems. The cost has to be offset somewhere else. With food its often soil erosion (often in another country), lack of nutrients in the food, lack of animal welfare etc..
with electronics I guess its things like working conditions and polluting manufacturing processes.

Its all about asking the right questions.
How can we ensure what we consume is not further harming ecosystems and people?



Rod Serling Fan Club wrote:
Going on what Fonik brought up there is economic theory about developing countries and the stages they go through as far as unionizing, legal rights and whatnot. Over time this transforms a workforce from sweatshops to good working conditions like in the west. Allegedly Korea is an example of this. So the theory goes, as more work goes to cheap places, jobs improve, more money is pumped in the economy, standard of living improves, etc. It's hard to say how this plays out somewhere like china though and I'll admit to being slightly distrustful of economic theories.
tony d
I think what Paul originally stated is about as honest as it's gonna get.
As far as i know mining precious metals is never going to be "good for the earth" And also as far as i know no living things have yet learned how to nourish themselves from eating plastics,transistors,resistors etc.
Rod Serling Fan Club
elemental wrote:
With all due respect I don't buy that kind of economic theory at all. The whole notion that "more work = more money = higher standard of living = better" is the kind of crap we have been fed that has led to many of the problems we have now.

What is standard of living? Is it having a fridge, TV, central heating etc.? Is it happiness?

Check out the film "The Economy of Happiness" its very insightful about this kinda stuff..

I have been getting into food supply issues recently, learning how to grow my own and trying to source as local and organic as possible.

With electronics its a different story... but seems to me, we should be asking similar questions as we do when buy food, i.e. where did it come from, how was it made, and was anything harmed in the process?

Basically, when something is cheap, usually it is not as cheap as it seems. The cost has to be offset somewhere else. With food its often soil erosion (often in another country), lack of nutrients in the food, lack of animal welfare etc..
with electronics I guess its things like working conditions and polluting manufacturing processes.

Its all about asking the right questions.
How can we ensure what we consume is not further harming ecosystems and people?



I think you are going out of the scope of the topic. It's not that I disagree with you it's just that somehow we are jumping from human/workplace rights to eating organically. There are a lot of measures of standard of living that aren't directly about product consumption: education, health care, human rights, safe workplace, decent hours, etc. These things don't improve without money flowing into their economy.

One could argue that it is better to keep poor countries impoverished so the don't have irrisponsible consumerism that destroys the earth as we do. So that they don't have a life-span to destroy the earth that we do. However, its very hypocritical for us to say so.
mckenic
I like that Farnell has 'some' info on where the product was manufactured and at the worst, the last country the major parts of it were put together. Not ideal in a lot of cases but as a novice I can at least 'try' to make semi-informed decisions.

Its all on the bags the components come in too, for example scroll down to Environmental & Legal:

http://ie.farnell.com/neutrik/nl8mm/coupler-speakon-8pole/dp/724580

Country of Origin: CH Switzerland
Country in which last significant manufacturing process was carried out


It helps a little bit...
fonik
elemental wrote:
With all due respect I don't buy that kind of economic theory at all. The whole notion that "more work = more money = higher standard of living = better" is the kind of crap we have been fed that has led to many of the problems we have now.

economic theory should try to explain the developments we see. theories about what's good and not good falls under philosophy, i believe. and i think you are right BTW.
anyways, in the case of china i don't think we will see the same development/evolution as in western hemisphere, unless they solve the distribution problem. today they solve it with supression of the masses, which will not last forwever. it simply cannot. sooner or later this will have to change, IMHO.
now this is going really off-topic...
Luka
The warehouse i used to live in had a sweatshop in the back smile that was in australia not china. They were a textiles company who leased us half of their warehouse due to lack of business. They mostly employed their family and friends but they worked almost 24/7.
Paradigm X
On top of all the valid points raised above, my heart always sinks a little when i get an order with about a million individual plastic bags, then wrapped in larger plastic bags. Ive got an enormous amount already and ive not been doing long/bought much.

Environmental disaster.

sad banana
fonik
annoying, indeed. once i ordered 500 knobs from farnell they came in a plastic bag each. not only the plastic, but a lof of work for me too: five hundret times opening up a plastic bag! last time i sourced these knobs from the manufacturer in taiwan and they send 500 knobs in one large plastic bag. nice for me.
i bet they ship to farnell via airmail as well, so there is almost no difference in the transportation aspect.
ringstone
fonik wrote:
annoying, indeed. once i ordered 500 knobs from farnell they came in a plastic bag each. not only the plastic, but a lof of work for me too: five hundret times opening up a plastic bag! last time i sourced these knobs from the manufacturer in taiwan and they send 500 knobs in one large plastic bag. nice for me.
i bet they ship to farnell via airmail as well, so there is almost no difference in the transportation aspect.


Yes, for all the hype Farnell spout about moving to more sustainable practices (allowing IC packaing returns etc) this sort of thing really makes a mockery of it... I also buy a lot directly from Hong Kong/Chinese manufacturers/distributors, and I am mindful that it is hard to know exactly what working conditions it's produced under and what the environmental impact is, it is hard enough at times getting exact technical information! But they certainly do seem to package more economically than the "big name" resellers, and the components are often the same or a very reasonable facsimile...

Cheers
Blair
paults
HA! This sounds like my "nightmare" story about Newark here in the US (owned by Farnell).

I ordered 1500 Switchcraft jacks. They come from Switchcraft in boxes of 500pcs loose, so I was expecting 3 boxes.

Got 1500 jacks in 1500 sealed bags. Was pissed but spent like 3 hours cutting the bags and removing them.

Yelled at the local Newark manager. She then called the Newark warehouse and got me a special part number for the 1 box of 500pcs.

I place the next order a few months later for 3ea of the part # (that is, 3 boxes of 500ea). Well, you guessed it. I got 3 jacks .

OK, I was REALLY pissed. I drove over to the office (45 miles away), I sat down with her, we got on the phone with Chicago's manager and we all agreed on what I was ordering. 3 BOXES of 500 part per box.

So I placed another order. You guessed it: I got the 1500 individual bagged parts. So, I shipped them back and have NEVER bought from them again. This was like 9 years ago.

Idiots.
dan_k
And these people do this for a living.. d'oh!

paults wrote:
HA! This sounds like my "nightmare" story about Newark here in the US (owned by Farnell).

I ordered 1500 Switchcraft jacks. They come from Switchcraft in boxes of 500pcs loose, so I was expecting 3 boxes.

Got 1500 jacks in 1500 sealed bags. Was pissed but spent like 3 hours cutting the bags and removing them.

Yelled at the local Newark manager. She then called the Newark warehouse and got me a special part number for the 1 box of 500pcs.

I place the next order a few months later for 3ea of the part # (that is, 3 boxes of 500ea). Well, you guessed it. I got 3 jacks .

OK, I was REALLY pissed. I drove over to the office (45 miles away), I sat down with her, we got on the phone with Chicago's manager and we all agreed on what I was ordering. 3 BOXES of 500 part per box.

So I placed another order. You guessed it: I got the 1500 individual bagged parts. So, I shipped them back and have NEVER bought from them again. This was like 9 years ago.

Idiots.
elemental
Rod Serling Fan Club wrote:
elemental wrote:
With all due respect I don't buy that kind of economic theory at all. The whole notion that "more work = more money = higher standard of living = better" is the kind of crap we have been fed that has led to many of the problems we have now.

What is standard of living? Is it having a fridge, TV, central heating etc.? Is it happiness?

Check out the film "The Economy of Happiness" its very insightful about this kinda stuff..

I have been getting into food supply issues recently, learning how to grow my own and trying to source as local and organic as possible.

With electronics its a different story... but seems to me, we should be asking similar questions as we do when buy food, i.e. where did it come from, how was it made, and was anything harmed in the process?

Basically, when something is cheap, usually it is not as cheap as it seems. The cost has to be offset somewhere else. With food its often soil erosion (often in another country), lack of nutrients in the food, lack of animal welfare etc..
with electronics I guess its things like working conditions and polluting manufacturing processes.

Its all about asking the right questions.
How can we ensure what we consume is not further harming ecosystems and people?



I think you are going out of the scope of the topic. It's not that I disagree with you it's just that somehow we are jumping from human/workplace rights to eating organically. There are a lot of measures of standard of living that aren't directly about product consumption: education, health care, human rights, safe workplace, decent hours, etc. These things don't improve without money flowing into their economy.

One could argue that it is better to keep poor countries impoverished so the don't have irrisponsible consumerism that destroys the earth as we do. So that they don't have a life-span to destroy the earth that we do. However, its very hypocritical for us to say so.


Perhaps it is a little off the topic - however its all in the category of what we consume and the effect on the Earth and its inhabitants.

Also, it is my belief that countries that are 'impoverished' are often in that state because of the introduction of money/capitalism and consumerism in some form. From most literature and accounts I have read and heard, peoples / tribes that had not been introduced to capitalism and the need to have money were perfectly happy and living in harmony with their environment. But this is going off topic again...

sorry its just a subject I feel is very important at the moment.
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