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Category winner:
Apple and Conflict Materials: Ethical Sourcing for Sustainability

This case won the Production and Operations Management category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2020#CaseAwards2020

Presentation of the trophy for the Production and Operations Management category 2020
Production and Operations Management

Celebrating the win

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we were unable to present the authors in person with their trophies for winning the Production and Operations Management category in 2020.

Even though we couldn't make it to India, their trophies have started to!

We are delighted to celebrate Debapratim and Adapa's win by sharing this picture of Debapratim and his award - congratulations!

Discover more about the winning case below.

Debapratim also won the Knowledge, Information and Communication Systems Management category in 2020.

Find out more about the Case Awards here.

The case

iphoneWho – the protagonist



Apple is the American multinational technology giant, selling consumers electronics, computer software, and online services.


Apple had to face accusations by activists that it was using conflict minerals in its products, which has led to the abuse of human rights in strife torn parts of the world.

Apple had taken various initiatives to tackle the challenge of conflict minerals since it started facing the heat from some activist groups in 2010.

Despite all the efforts made by Apple, the company faced an uphill task. The problem was compounded by the fact that the supply chain for such minerals was opaque and it was not easy to determine which refiners and smelters around the world were financially fuelling violence in war-torn regions. 

When?Gun leant up against a granite slab

By 2014, Apple was claiming that 93 smelters it used were certified by CFSP, with another 46 agreeing to participate in the CFSP audit in the future.

But even the US Government’s Commerce Department acknowledged that it was facing huge financial problems in determining which refiners and smelters around the world were fuelling violence in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo region.


War-torn countries, such as Congo and Indonesia, were affected.

Key quote

“Apple has started to recognise that supply chain problems start well before factories – the next step should be extending this scrutiny to other raw materials used it its products and packaging.” – Julian Kirby, Resource Use Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, speaking in February 2014.

What next?

Green earthGoing forward what more could Apple do to ensure all its products were free from conflict materials? How could it ensure that the procurement of minerals through its supply chain did not profit armed groups in producer countries?

Interested in finding out more?

Download the case and teaching note

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Apple and Conflict Materials: Ethical Sourcing for Sustainability
Ref 615-066-1

Teaching note
Ref 615-066-8

The authors


Debapratim Purkayastha and Adapa Rao Srinivasa

Debapratim talks about their pride of winning the award and the importance of remembering the reason for writing a case in the first place.

Special feeling

Debapratim said: “It is very special to win an award in the highly competitive Production and Operations Management category for the first time.”

Dealing with modern day slavery

Hands tied togetherDebapratim commented: “This case deals with the critical issue of modern slavery in the supply chain of MNCs and the wicked problem posed by conflict minerals. Many people cannot even comprehend how the evils of slavery have permeated our daily lives through the products we use, and how important it has become for MNCs to identify and mitigate risks in their supply chain. There were few cases on the topic and we took it upon ourselves to develop a case that will help take this issue into the classroom.”

Catering for all

He explained: “I always try to capture the interesting situations that arise in the real world with all its richness and complexity and bring it into a classroom. These situations often do not necessarily fall into watertight compartments – strategy, marketing, operations. So, while this Apple case is very useful in an Operations Management/Supply Chain Management class, it can be equally useful in a Strategy or a Business Ethics/Corporate Sustainability class. As an instructor, you can go deep into a specific subject area with this case or even approach it from a multi-disciplinary perspective.”

Shaping the future of students

Debapratim Purkayastha teachingHe added: “Never lose focus of why you are writing the case in the first place! It helps to remember that you are not writing this case just as an ancillary part of your job as a management instructor, or doing this just to ‘get credit’; you are doing this to achieve certain objectives in the classrooms (for yourself and others using this case in their classroom). You are shaping the future of numerous students by helping them develop key skills that will contribute towards making them industry-ready.”

Follow-up case

Debapratim concluded: “While it is becoming increasingly important for MNCs to tackle the issue of modern slavery, it is usually not an easy solve as the supply chains are often unique, opaque and with multiple layers. High quality cases on this critical theme are also few. So, as an instructor, if you are looking for a follow-up case, you may try out this Nestlé case.”

About the authors

Debapratim Purkayastha is Dean (Case Research Center) at ICFAI Business School (IBS).
e debapratim@icmrindia.org
tw @dpurkayastha

Adapa Rao Srinivasa is a Case writer at ICFAI Business School (IBS).
e adapavasu@gmail.com


View all the 2020 winners