Increasingly customers, governments, civil society organisations and consumers are seeking to purchase goods that have been produced in socially and environmentally responsible ways.
It’s widely recognised that the trade in some minerals and metals has caused or prolonged violent conflicts, with warring parties using profits from mines under their control to buy weapons and recruit soldiers. These mines are often operated illegally, with labourers forced to work at gunpoint. Once the minerals and metals are smuggled out of the country and enter the global supply chain, they effectively become laundered and impossible to identify as having funded conflict.
Beyond our work, and as a result of the particular issue of conflict minerals, a number of initiatives have emerged with the aim of providing traceability of minerals and metals in high risk, conflict-affected areas. Some of the initiatives specifically focus on the countries of the Great Lakes Region in Central Africa especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo but others are intended to apply globally, in any conflict-affected area or high risk area.
The OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance, one of the first initiatives in this area, established precedent in defining conflict minerals as tantalum, tin and tungsten (known as ‘the 3 Ts’) and gold.
While the uptake and implementation of the OECD’s guidance is on a voluntary basis, it establishes a strong political and moral foundation for companies to act. And since December 2012, any export of the 3Ts or gold from the Great Lakes Region has required a certificate that serves as a guarantee that the designated mineral shipment was mined and traded in compliance with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Regions (ICGLR) standards; created to explicitly harmonise with the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance.
The US has also passed a law, known as Dodd-Frank 1502, which requires companies that use or produce possible conflict minerals from countries in the Great Lakes Region to disclose what safeguards they have in place to ensure that they are not contributing to armed conflict or any associated human rights abuse. The European Union is currently debating the details of a similar law.
The responsible extraction and processing of all minerals and metals is fundamental to their sustainable supply and use. Set in the context of the broader societal drives for responsible sourcing, companies need policies and standards that reflect their commitment to responsible practices, due diligence and effective traceability of minerals and metals throughout the supply chain. In 2016, we’ll be exploring the potential for greater traceability of metals through supply chains to ensure that good practice at the mining stage can remain associated with the product.