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.
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Industry should follow the positive steps taken by Microsoft, General Electric (GE) and Motorola Solutions
WASHINGTON, DC and LONDON -- Human rights groups in the US and the UK are calling on leading electronics and automotive companies to make public statements against the position taken by the US Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) on conflict minerals, or cut ties with the organization. The Chamber has made threats to overturn a key section of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to curb the deadly trade in conflict minerals from eastern Congo. The rights groups are calling on companies including Acer, AT&T, Canon, Dell, Ford, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola Mobility, Panasonic, RIM (Blackberry), Verizon and Xerox to take this action.
The call comes in the weeks after Microsoft, General Electric and Motorola Solutions broke from the Chamber’s position, announcing they do not support its stance against Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which aims to break the link between the global trade in minerals and violence in eastern DRC.
“Human rights advocates applaud Microsoft, GE and Motorola Solutions for taking a stand on this life-or-death issue,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project. “Other leading electronics, automotive, and jewelry companies must now follow their lead.”
In May, the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre wrote to prominent electronics and automotive companies and asked them to clarify their positions on Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Microsoft took a leadership position when it stated, “Microsoft has expressed support for the SEC’s prompt action on this rulemaking and we do not support or fund the Chamber’s lobbying against the proposed rules.” General Electric, meanwhile, responded that “the views and positions expressed by the Chamber are its own, and not GE’s.” Motorola Solutions stated that “The views and positions expressed by the Chamber on conflict minerals are not our own.”
Other electronics companies, notably AT&T, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola Mobility and Verizon, responded but declined to answer the question about the discrepancy between their public positions as companies in supporting action to tackle conflict minerals and their involvement with the Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Ford and Xerox declined to respond at all.
“Leading companies at the center of the international debate on conflict minerals appear to be trying to have their cake and eat it too,” said Jana Morgan of Global Witness. “They can’t pledge support for efforts to stamp out the trade in conflict minerals in Congo, while simultaneously supporting the Chamber; an association employing lobbyists to gut the law. These companies must disassociate themselves from the Chamber of Commerce’s position on conflict minerals.”
“Consumers have made it plain to companies that they want conflict-free products to come to market, and stand ready to reward those companies that are doing their utmost to achieve that goal,” said Fred Kramer, Executive Director of Jewish World Watch. “Those same consumers will be sorely disappointed to learn that otherwise proactive companies are at the same time hedging their bets by quietly supporting the Chamber.”
Notes to editors:
1. The following organizations have signed on to this statement: The Conflict Free Campus Initiative, Congo Action Now, Earthworks, The Enough Project, Global Witness, Jewish World Watch, and STAND.
2. The trade in conflict minerals from eastern Congo provides financing to armed groups that have terrorized the region’s civilian population for over a decade, fueling the world’s deadliest war since World War II, with over 5.4 million people dead. In response, Congress included a provision in the Dodd Frank Act – Section 1502 – which requires companies that use tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold to carry out due diligence on their supply chains and report publicly on the steps they have taken.
3. Electronics industry associations, the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global E-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), as well as other leading companies, have publicly supported measures to deal with conflict minerals. However, lobbyists such as the US Chamber of Commerce and NAM have fought to weaken Section 1502, and the Chamber has said it is considering legal action to block it. Some members of EICC and GeSI, as well as other major firms involved in efforts to address the conflict minerals trade, are also members or funders of the US Chamber of Commerce, and in some cases NAM.
4. The Enough Project has urged companies and the Chamber to support section 1502 since October 2011, with the Step Up for 1502 campaign which led to thousands of consumers writing on the Facebook walls of Dell, Panasonic, Acer, Canon, and the US Chamber. Global Witness wrote a commentary on the issue in May 2012 and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited businesses concerned to respond with their comments.
5. Links between leading companies and the US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers:
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