Human Rights

Taking Conflict Out of Our Gadgets: Which Companies Are Doing Best?

Two years since a U.S. law put the spotlight on the issue of conflict minerals from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which American electronics companies are making strides to clean up their supply chains and which are lagging behind—or doing nothing at all?  Read More »

Intel, HP Rank Highest on Conflict Minerals, Nintendo, HTC Lag Behind

Date: 
Aug 16, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jonathan Hutson, +1.202.386.1618, jhutson@enoughproject.org

WASHINGTON – In response to growing consumer demand for electronics products free of conflict minerals from eastern Congo, the Enough Project issued its second company rankings report, “Taking Conflict Out of Consumer Gadgets: Company Rankings on Conflict Minerals 2012,” which assesses consumer electronics companies on their progress toward responsible and conflict-free supply chains.

The report found that four leading electronics companies—Intel, HP, Motorola Solutions[i], and Apple[ii]—have established conflict minerals programs that pave the way for the rest of the industry. Six other companies—SanDisk, Philips, Sony, Panasonic, RIM, and AMD—significantly improved their conflict free efforts by tracing back into their supply chains, piloting due diligence, and joining a smelter audit program. On the other end of the spectrum, Nintendo remains at the bottom of the list and has yet to make any known effort to trace or audit its supply chain, despite growing public awareness.

“HP and Intel have gone above and beyond the call of duty on conflict minerals,” said Sasha Lezhnev, co-author of the report and Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst. “It is now time to level the playing field for all companies, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has a key role to play in its upcoming vote on the rules for the conflict minerals law on August 22. The SEC should ensure that retailers and all firms that use the minerals are covered by the rules and that there is not a long phase-in period. Otherwise, the Intels and HPs will be left unfairly holding the bag for a problem that belongs to thousands of companies that have been turning a blind eye to this problem for years.”

The report builds on the Enough Project’s first company rankings report that was released in December 2010. The report’s objective is to rate consumer electronics companies on their efforts to positively invest in the region, as well as their efforts to remove conflict minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold—that fund armed groups in eastern Congo from their supply chains. The minerals are used in electronic devices and are a key driver to the war, which has claimed 5.4 million lives. The rankings are designed to help provide consumers with information to make responsible and informed choices when purchasing electronics products.

“Moving forward, we need to ensure that conflict-free mining does not equate to Congo-free mining,” said actor and ethical mining entrepreneur Jeffrey Wright, who is featured in a new Enough Project video about conflict-free mining. “Companies sourcing minerals from eastern Congo can invest in a way that serves both their own interests and the interests of local communities. To help achieve this, more firms should join the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, invest in projects to source clean minerals in eastern Congo, and support social development initiatives in mining communities to foster sustained economic growth and long-term stability.”

The 2012 rankings show an overall trend of improvement among electronics companies to address conflict minerals in their supply chains, but less progress in other industries, including jewelry, automotive, and industrial machinery. The progress has been spurred by the conflict minerals provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, as well as by growing consumer activism.

"Much of the progress that has been made by electronics companies on conflict minerals can be attributed to direct consumer action. We are witnessing a mass consumer movement for the creation of a clean minerals sector in Congo. Not surprisingly, college students have emerged as the leading activists on this issue. Students from more than 100 college campuses across the U.S. and U.K. are advocating for their university's purchasing and investment policies to reflect company action on conflict minerals," said co-author of the report and Enough Project Student Coordinator Alexandra Hellmuth.

In addition to assessing electronics industry leaders and laggards, the report identifies three main areas of progress that have been made industry-wide—tracing, auditing, and certification—as well as significant gaps in conflict minerals policies that must be addressed.

“The progress made by the electronics companies in the Enough Project’s rankings now needs to be duplicated by companies in other sectors,” said Enough Project Executive Director John C. Bradshaw. “Companies in the jewelry, automotive, industrial machinery, and aerospace industries should join the Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade and begin direct sourcing programs to help Congo develop a clean minerals trade.”

Read the full report: “Taking Conflict Out of Consumer Gadgets: Company Rankings on Conflict Minerals 2012.” URL: http://www.enoughproject.org/files/CorporateRankings2012.pdf

View a slideshow of images from the report and eastern Congo. Photos are free for media use. Please credit the Enough Project. URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/enoughproject/sets/72157631066700188/

View a new Enough Project video about conflict-free mining that features actor and ethical mining entrepreneur Jeffrey Wright. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuBYxMsckfY&feature=youtu.be

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Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.

[i] Motorola Solutions was not ranked in the Enough Project’s 2012 survey because the company split and is no longer producing one of the five key products included in the rankings. However, Motorola Solutions has been a prominent leader on tracing, auditing, and certification.

[ii] Although Apple ranked number eight in the Enough Project’s 2012 company rankings report, Apple has been an industry leader by being the first company to identify the number of its smelters and to require its suppliers to use only certified conflict-free smelters once audits are complete.

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New Enough Report: Dodd-Frank Bill Leads to Decrease in Conflict Minerals Trade in Congo, Smuggling Remains a Concern

Over the past 18 months, companies and governments have taken significant steps toward cleaning up supply chains that are sourcing minerals from eastern Congo. A new investigative Enough Project report released today assesses the Dodd-Frank Act’s impact on the conflict minerals trade in eastern Congo thus far.  Read More »

Congo Rebels Earn Less from Conflict Minerals, Threaten Smuggling: Report

Date: 
Aug 7, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jonathan Hutson, +1-202-386-1618, jhutson@enoughproject.org

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo and WASHINGTON, DC -- Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation and more stringent tech industry sourcing policies have led to an estimated 65 percent decrease in profit over the past two years for armed groups in eastern Congo from their trade in the conflict minerals of tin, tantalum, and tungsten, according to a new Enough Project investigative report. However, the renewed violence by the Rwanda-backed M23 rebellion threatens to greatly increase conflict minerals smuggling.

The report, based on field interviews with 143 people in Congo and Rwanda, documents that the recent escalation of violence in eastern Congo is being driven mainly to protect economic interests, but it masks the noteworthy progress that companies and governments have made over the past 18 months to significantly diminish the ability of armed groups to generate income from conflict minerals. The U.S. Dodd-Frank Act has fostered long-term mining reforms by electronics companies and the Congolese government, and more than 100 Congolese miners interviewed by the Enough Project supported the law as a way to end slave-like conditions in the mining sector.

"The Dodd-Frank law is making a serious dent on the militias in eastern Congo, cutting their profits from the conflict minerals of tin, tantalum, and tungsten by more than 60 percent,” said Fidel Bafilemba, co-author of the report and Enough Project policy consultant. “Miners, despite their lower incomes in the short term, support the reforms that will free them from the slave-like conditions they have lived through in the mines. Companies that have profited from the trade—electronics, jewelers, tin smelters—should establish a miners empowerment fund to increase employment in the region, including micro-finance for mining communities."  

The latest round of fighting fueled by the M23 rebellion, reportedly backed by Rwanda and co-commanded by indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, threatens to increase instability and smuggling in the region. M23 and its allied militias have established control over a number of strategic locations in the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo and threaten further insecurity as well as a massive conflict minerals smuggling operation. The rebellion has slowed the first exports of clean minerals from the Kivus, but reforms are still moving forward outside the crisis areas.

“Economics are at the heart of the renewed violence in eastern Congo, and M23's latest advances indicate a move to open the floodgates of conflict minerals smuggling to Rwanda,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst and co-author of the report. “The time for robust monitoring of mines and traders is now. The Obama administration should ensure that the independent regional minerals monitoring team conducts investigations as soon as possible, so that smugglers can be sanctioned.”

According to the report, gaps in follow-up to the Dodd-Frank law must be addressed by jewelry companies and the Obama administration, as these gaps allow armed groups in Congo to continue to trade gold and smuggle other conflict minerals into neighboring countries. During the time period of 2010 to 2011, Rwanda’s mineral exports rose 62 percent compared with only a 22 percent rise in domestic mining production and a decline in Congo’s mineral exports of 75 percent.

To ensure that progress made in the fight against conflict minerals continues to move forward, renewed commitment must be made to speed up certification of conflict-free mines and increase the number of civilian mining police. To this end, the U.S. should ensure that an independent monitoring mechanism of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region is functional as soon as possible and has the ability to sanction smugglers. The U.S. and U.K. should also sanction Rwandan officials who, according to the U.N. Group of Experts report, have aided the M23 rebellion.

Read the full report: “From Congress to Congo: Turning the Tide on Conflict Minerals, Closing Loopholes, and Empowering Miners.”

View a slideshow of images from eastern Congo and Rwanda. Photos are available for media use. Please credit Sasha Lezhnev/Enough Project.

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Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.

 

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