A Commendable Step: Project Seeks to Map Minerals Supply Chain

 
Sasha Lezhnev

Resolve, an NGO working on a supply chain mapping project with the consumer electronics industry, recently provided an update about its investigation into the supply chains for tin, tantalum, and cobalt – two of which are conflict minerals that are helping to fuel violence in eastern Congo.

Three months ago, the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) announced that they were undertaking a supply chain transparency research project that would be implemented by the NGO Resolve in Washington, D.C. The plan was to publicly map the steps in the supply chains for tin, tantalum, and cobalt in order to give companies, NGOs, and the public a much better idea on how minerals tracing might look like down the line. We think that kind of transparency will help move things in the right direction, but we still need individual companies to step up and take greater action to trace, audit, and certify that their supply chains are conflict-free.

The project seems to be going well, though it is a bit delayed. Resolve announced that 30 percent of suppliers had responded to the supply chain survey thus far and that the project results would be delayed for three months. Many companies were concerned about their confidential commercial relationships being publicized, which partially explains the low response rate. Electronics companies are now stepping in to reassure their suppliers that this will not be the case, and that only general supply chain steps will be identified, not individual company-to-company business relationships.

Resolve’s work isn’t limited to research. They have reached out to NGOs and businesses through a Stakeholder Advisory Group to seek input and build consensus for the project. Enough, the Grassroots Reconciliation Group, and 12 other organizations make up the group and are involved in reviewing codes of conduct and other potential initiatives that could help shine a light on the supply chain of Congo’s conflict minerals. For updates about the group’s work, check out resolv.org.

 

Editor’s Note: To understand the human impact of the trade in conflict minerals in Congo, don’t miss this excellent BBC report and video out last week.