The use of conflict minerals (natural resources extracted from warzones and used to fund armed groups) in video game manufacturing has been a huge ethical struggle for the industry for several years now. Last year, Activision Blizzard led the games industry in being able to verify none of the minerals sourced for their physical product lines were funding armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This year, that's slipped.
In a followup from his 2015 analysis, GameIndustry.biz's Brendan Sinclair writes that in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Comission, Activision reported that only 14 of the 16 product suppliers returned surveys verifying they were not sourcing minerals from the war-torn region of the DRC and surrounding territories in 2015.
These 14 suppliers supplied a list of 18 refineries they were using to obtain their raw materials, of which only 16 were certified as conflict-free by the Conflict Free Source Initiative, indicating a possibility the other two refineries may be using the ill-gained materials.
Disney's results also proved somewhat diminished. The company's suppliers reported the use of conflict resources increasing from 22 to 76, of which only 3 could completely certify they were not using the disputed resource.
Of the other 73, 12 made similar claims but didn't provide enough information on their supply chain to verify their argument, and 61 couldn't account for the origins of their raw materials whatosever.
Sinclair notes there have been improvements for other large product makers. Apple, a company which has been long-broiled over controversial labor practices in producing its products, aggressively worked to adjust its supply chain and ensure all its refineries were participating in third-party audits on their mineral sourcing.
Microsoft also saw improvements from 2014-2015, with 97 percent of its suppliers completing the conflict-free surveys compared to 82 percent from 2014, and 85 percent of refineries met the standards of the Conflict Free Source Initiative as well. (Up from 73 percent in 2014 and 60 percent in 2013)
Sony's disclosures to the SEC don't make clear how many of its direct suppliers it has surveyed, so it's a little harder to parse their results, and Nintendo doesn't file disclosure reports to begin with.
Strangely, Facebook and Time Warner, who should have had to disclose their conflict mineral sourcing due to the production of the Oculus Rift and the Lego Dimensions sets, had not filed by the required deadline of May 31st.
Correction: An earlier version of this report cited the increase in Disney's suppliers who use conflict materials as a percentage instead of a fixed number. This was an error, and has been updated to reflect the increase.