Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch awarded its prestigious Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism to two human rights defenders from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya. Father Benoît Kinalegu, the Congolese recipient, is a priest and longtime activist working to document and end the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, and rehabilitate survivors of LRA violence. Read More »
Just as loved ones and supporters began to celebrate the release of Sudanese activist Rudwan Dawod on August 13, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services, or NISS, re-arrested Dawod and took him to an undisclosed location. Read More »
Conflict minerals from eastern Congo, found in our cell phones, computers and jewelry, are mined in conditions of armed violence and human rights abuse. Mining in Africa doesn't have to be this way. Dialogue and engagement between consumers, miners and civil society leaders in Africa is needed to find real, sustainable solutions. Read More »
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 »
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.”
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.
Recently, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, signed separate memoranda of understanding, or MOUs, with the so-called “Tripartite Partners” comprised of the United Nations, the African Union, and the League of Arab States. While challenges remain, the MOUs are a positive step forward in securing unfettered access for international humanitarian aid organizations to conflict-affected populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
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Leading electronics companies are making progress in eliminating conflict minerals from their supply chains, but still cannot label their products as being conflict free. Since Enough’s last corporate rankings report on conflict minerals in December 2010, a majority of leading consumer electronics companies have moved ahead in addressing conflict minerals in their supply chains—spurred by the conflict minerals provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and growing consumer activism, particularly on college campuses. Most firms have improved their scores from the 2010 rankings, but some laggards still remain.
By Sasha Lezhnev and Alexandra Hellmuth | Aug 16, 2012
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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 »