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Exclusive interview with Dr Carolyn Duran from Intel

At CES in January 2014, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich told the audience some home truths about the origins of various goods that we take for granted in our every day lives. Specifically, minerals and the way they can be obtained from twisted governments that support conflict. Dr Carolyn Duran is in charge of making sure that materials sourced by Intel from dozens of smelters across more than 20 countries, remain conflict free. She was kind enough to speak with KitGuru about her role in making the developing world a better place.

First up, we wanted to know just many conflict-free microprocessors has Intel shipped in its first full year – what percentage?
Carolyn told us, “All of the microprocessors for client devices that we shipped were conflict free. So, every unit we sold that had an Intel microprocessor inside is conflict free”.

No messing around, that’s an impressive stat – considering the spread of countries that Intel has to deal with.

Next, we want to know if it had been easier or harder than Intel expected to stay conflict-free?
“It has been pretty straightforward for us to stay conflict free for our microprocessors, although we certainly need to stay diligent”, she told us. “What has been challenging is trying to keep things moving forward with the rest of our supply chain, where the supply chain is more fluid and more dispersed. This is where it takes all of us working together – both inside and beyond the electronics industry – to make real progress”.

Dr-Carolyn-Duran-Intel-Conflict-Free-Programme-Manager-KitGuru-Exclusive-Interview

So, we take that to mean that once a company is in direct contact with Intel, control becomes easier, but she needs to stay diligent against the companies that deliver product to Intel’s suppliers. On a global scale, that’s some audit.

Is there a price to be paid? Normally, any kind of charitable/ethical stance has a cost associated with it – so we asked if Intel had managed to mitigate this? “This was never about cost to us”, she said. “We did it because it was the right thing to do, and are working to incorporate it into our standard business processes to minimise overall cost”.

Cool.

In other words, if you are a serious organisation – and the size of your business becomes very important to your suppliers – then you can apply some pressure to ensure that they are working ethically, without necessarily increasing anyone’s costs.

We asked if Intel’s stance had put pressure on less ethical countries to change, but Carolyn corrected us.

“I think you’re mixing ‘countries’ and ‘suppliers’, she said. “And I want to be clear they are different”.

“That said”, she continued, “In some countries there is a lesser focus on corporate social responsibility, including efforts in conflict minerals. Intel sets the same expectations for corporate social responsibility for all of our suppliers, regardless of country”.

Is there a clear reference for this?

“These can most easily be found in the EICC Code of Conduct, as well as within our own CSR, which will be updated toward the end of January 2015″.

Intel taking the lead on an issue is one thing, but we live in a global economy. We asked Carolyn if Intel had managed to recruit any other high-profile companies to its ethical banner?
“There are many companies working within the EICC’s Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative”, she explained. “Where the programs Intel helped develop and currently utilises are housed”.

“What we have seen in the past year is that many more of these companies are taking an active role in driving conflict free sourcing expectations within their own supply chain”, she said. “When we collectively set expectations, we see changes”.

You can get a real sense of what Carolyn and her group are trying to achieve over here.

Dr-Carolyn-Duran-In-Pursuit-of-Conflict-Free-Exclusive-Interview-with-KitGuru

Great cause and we applaud the effort.

Time to find out something about the geek behind the woman behind the project!

So what did Carolyn do before she joined Intel?
“I came to Intel right out of graduate school”, she told us. “Before graduate school, I was part of a cooperative (co-op) education program at Carnegie Mellon and through that worked at GE Aircraft Engines. Between school and graduate school I worked at a heat treatment facility in Bethlehem, PA. Those who did a co-op graduated in December, so I had Jan-Aug to work before I started my graduate program”.

Is it possible that Carolyn’s first computer didn’t use an Intel processor?
“When I was a kid my dad bought a Commodore 64. After that, I didn’t get my own computer until graduate school – it was a Mac”, she said.

So what about rest and relaxation?  We asked Carolyn for her ‘perfect day’ scenario.
“I’d be driving with my family, so it would need to seat 5 (my husband, me, and our three sons). Right now I’d have to say our current Audi Q7, but if they make a big electric car that might be the one for me for the future”, she explained. “If my oldest son had his way we’d be singing his choice, but if it were mine, I’d have to say something from the Cult, which is one of my favourite old school bands. Maybe She Sells Sanctuary?”

On to food, what would Dr Duran serve up when she wants to be impressive?
“I actually cook a lot when I have the time, but not for impressing anyone, just because it’s fun and yummy!”, she exclaimed. “Tonight we are having company and, as they also have kids, I’m doing a wintry shepherd’s pie from Slow Cooker Revolution, with homemade biscuits. Last night we did a Quickfire (from the US program TopChef), with the kids –they each had to make their own fajita and my husband and I were the judges. If it was just adults, I really enjoy making chicken saltimbocca”.

OK, OK… But what CAN’T you cook – so you always need to eat out when you want it?
“Salmon”, she stated. “There is no way I can make it as well as they do here in Portland”.

Well what’s the point of living near the sea if you can’t buy the best catch pre-cooked by experts?

Last question: If you could invent anything, what would it be?
Carolyn played the full Dr Duran card, “Well, I am one of the authors on a few patents as part of my time at Intel, based on inventions for both electromigration in copper interconnects as well as polymer memory”.

KitGuru says: OK, we’re impressed. Doctorate, inventor, super-mum and planet saver – we’re all feeling a dose of underachievement here at KitGuru HQ!    Big THANK YOU to Dr Carolyn Duran from Intel’s Conflict-Free programme – she has lofty aims and we hope they can bring even more positive change going forward.

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