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Who Is Tops in Conflict Minerals Reduction?

Conflict minerals continue to fuel violence in central Africa, but e-gear manufacturers are making progress. Apple and Alphabet Google topped the Enough Project's November 2017 rankings of companies working to develop supply chains of conflict-free minerals from the Congo.

The Enough Project ranked twenty consumer electronics manufacturers and large retail jewelers. Out of a possible 130 points, the leaders were Apple (122) and Alphabet Google (102.5). In fact, the top five performers were all ICT companies.

Not all ICT companies faired so well. Samsung (17.5) and Toshiba (9) were out-performed by five jewelry retailers.

2012's top performers - Intel and HP - were in 2017's top five, but are lagging significantly behind Apple and Alphabet Google.

2014 Update

We noted in 2012 (below) that Intel was top-ranked in one assessment of 20+ electronics companies. NPR broadcast this update in January 2014. "Four years ago, the [US] president signed a Conflict Minerals Rule into law. Companies now have to make public whether their supply chains are conflict-free, the deadline for them to comply is this spring. Intel is the first American company to say they're already there." Read/listen to the full interview with Intel supply chain management director Carolyn Duran. Watch the CES 2014 speech in which Intel CEO Brian Krzanich made the announcement.

Apple

Apple ranked ninth in the 2012 assessment of 24 companies, with 38 points to Intel's 60. Apple now reports, "In January 2014 we confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors, and we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources. To heighten smelter accountability and help stakeholders follow our progress, we are releasing, for the first time, a list of the smelters and refiners in our supply chain along with their verification status."

Apple offered more detail in May 2014 in its SEC disclosure on conflict minerals. "Apple’s conflict minerals policy requires that all of its suppliers map their supply chains through all levels down to the smelters and refiners and report the results to Apple. Accordingly, between 2010 and 2013, Apple surveyed more than 400 suppliers...Apple has identified to date 205 different smelters and refiners of Subject Minerals for 2013...Of the 205 smelters and refiners of Subject Minerals identified for calendar 2013, 21 smelters and refiners were identified as sources of Subject Minerals from the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] or adjoining countries. Of these 21, 17 were found CFSP-compliant [Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative’s Conflict-Free Smelter Program]. The 4 remaining smelters and refiners have not yet undertaken a third-party audit. Apple commissioned a third-party review of publicly available information and found no reasonable basis for concluding that any of these smelters and refiners sourced Subject Minerals that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups. Apple will continue to drive these 4 smelters and refiners to become CFSP-compliant or, if necessary, will require its suppliers to remove them from its supply chain. Apple has provided information as of the date of this Report."

Apple defines its 'Subject Minerals" as "...gold, columbite-tantalite (coltan), cassiterite, wolframite, tantalum, tin, and tungsten..."

Original 2012 Post

The Enough Project rated over 20 companies in August 2012 on a 100% scale. Intel (60%) and HP (54%) lead. All told, 13 companies scored 30% or better. "These companies have taken proactive steps to trace and audit their supply chains, pushed for some aspects of legislation, exercised leadership in industry-wide efforts, started to help Congo develop a clean trade. But they can still dig deeper in their supply chains and outreach."

Five - Canon, Nikon, Sharp, HTC, Nintendo - scored 8% or less. "These companies have done next to nothing to shift their practices toward conflict-free from Congo. They are not members of industry-wide efforts, have not taken the proper steps to investigate their supply chains, have said nothing about legislation, and are not actively engaged with other stakeholders."

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) followed up a September 2012 report Greening ICT supply chains – Survey on conflict minerals due diligence initiatives. It adds to the Enough Project report with a citation of Motorola Solutions' Solutions for Hope Project, "which embodies a closed supply chain of minerals from within DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo]. For the pilot project, Motorola Solutions effectively shortened its supply chain for tantalum so that it only includes the mine operator (a mining co-op in the initial phase), a smelter, a component manufacturer (called AVX) and the company itself...In March 2012, AVX published a press release saying that it had 'delivered its first conflict-free capacitors to Motorola'.”

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Image courtesy of Enough Project