Traceability of a product's origin from manufacture right back to the source of its component materials is of increasing importance to society. Consumers are concerned that their furniture is made from FSC-certified timber; that their food is grown locally and has not accumulated unnecessary food miles; that their clothes are not made in a sweatshop or produced with exploitative labour; and that their tuna has been caught in a manner that doesn’t harm other ocean life.
What about metals? Can we trace minerals and metals back to their origin and document a full understanding of the impacts associated with their individual production? The answer is, not yet. But we are on the journey. Already, standards exist in some important areas, such as gold and diamonds: well-known brands (such as Tiffany’s) protect their reputations by requiring suppliers to certify their record on human rights and the sustainable footprint of extraction operations. But this level of commitment is not yet standard practice for a great many other brands and products.
At ICMM we are beginning to explore this concept more broadly, exploring with members ways to help customers build a full picture of what they can expect of a responsible mining operation. In 2015 we published a guide to responsible sourcing for the mining and metals industry to provide context for our sector and to outline potential activities mining and metals companies might undertake.
Our next step is engaging with the global automotive industry, which uses a large variety and quantity of metals, to support their formulation of sourcing policies. The aim is to bring members and automotive customers together to progress a framework for responsible sourcing to which all mining companies can align to deliver full traceability.
This positive engagement doesn’t mean that progress is going to be simple: supply chains for products such as a new car are often as complex as the product themselves, with numerous organisations involved in the lifecycle. Visibility along supply chains is typically limited to only a step or two in any direction. So much of this work is in making supply chains more visible and better connecting the users of minerals and metals with those producing them.