Several publicly traded US companies are failing to adequately ensure that minerals funding conflict in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) do not end up in their products.

The DRC is known as a major source of tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, which are materials commonly found in electronics.

Carly Oboth, a policy adviser at Global Witness, stated that American firms need to be accountable when it comes to creating their products, “If companies had spent these resources on properly investigating and reporting on their supply chains, their customers would be more confident their goods were conflict-free.”

Background

In 2014, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) found that 79% of product samples failed the minimum requirements of a conflict minerals law. These companies were among thousands that filed reports in accordance with section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that requires all US companies to report whether the minerals used in their products are being purchased to fund militia groups in Central Africa.

Enterprise Commitment 

Apple has now stepped forward and stated it is eliminating conflict minerals from its supply chain. A sustainability report, filed for Apple, stated the company audited 135 of 225 smelters to make sure that these minerals will no longer be in their products. Another 64 are in the process of being verified as conflict-free. Other consumer goods manufacturers such as: Johnson & Johnson, The Home Depot, and Urban Outfitters have all pledged a commitment to use conflict-free minerals. “We’re confident that our filing complies with the law,” said Stephen Holmes, a spokesman for The Home Depot. “Regardless, we’re committed to the responsible sourcing of materials for our products, and we expect suppliers to be committed to the same.”

Reporting and The Future

Since its inception, companies have used the conflict minerals reporting template (CMRT) to report their conflict minerals compliance information. The CMRT is a free template developed by the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) and is considered the industry standard for conflict minerals reporting. The CMRT is designed to facilitate the transfer of information through the supply chain regarding mineral country of origin and smelters and refiners being utilized. The template also facilitates the identification of new smelters and refiners to potentially undergo an audit via the RMI’s Responsible Minerals Assurance Process. In addition, the European Union has implemented a conflict minerals law. Click here to learn more.

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