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Conflict Minerals in Everyday Electronics

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday November 22nd, 2011 | 0 Comments

Most of the electronics we use everyday, such as laptops, cell phones and DVD players, are manufactured with tantalum, tungsten and gold, AKA “conflict minerals.” When these minerals are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) it’s often through forced or child labor.

Praxis Mutual Funds and Everence Financial launched an email campaign last week which calls on electronics manufacturers and retailers to “pursue ways to end the conflict minerals industry.” The campaign invites customers of the four major cell phone providers (AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon) to email the companies and express their concern over the use of conflict minerals in their cell phones.

“The illicit trade of conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo supports armed groups and perpetuates cycles of death, rape and violence,” the email states.

“As a top mobile network operator in the United States, you have significant influence over the phones purchased under your mobile plans,” continues, “As a consumer, I want to purchase conflict-free phones and devices, and I encourage your company to take a leadership role in making this a reality.”

“To our knowledge, nobody has worked with the major cell service providers Mark Regier, Director of Stewardship Investing for Everence Financial told Social Funds. “Four companies today control 80 percent of the market. We wanted to bring them into the conversation because well over a majority of Americans get their cell phones through their service providers.”

The four major cell phone companies are “major players in funneling people to certain types of phones,” Regier said. The email campaign is an opportunity for Praxis and Everence to educate their “ constituents on how their lives and their choices are a part of all this.”

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility released statement this summer

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) released a statement on human trafficking and conflict minerals last June. The statement asked companies to “proactively develop human rights policies that specifically address human trafficking and modern day slavery and request that these policies are integrated into business plans, and that public reporting on these measures be made available to both current and future investors.”

In addition, the ICCR statement called on companies to work with other stakeholders to stop human trafficking and slave labor.

The ICCR statement listed eight things companies need to do:

  • Develop a policy stating the company’s commitment to respect human rights
  • Assess the actual and potential human rights impacts, including human trafficking and modern day slavery
  • Integrate the policy and assessment into internal oversight systems and monitoring programs
  • Train employees, contractors and vendors
  • Add a clause in contracts with suppliers, host-government agreements and joint ventures stating a common repudiation of human trafficking to ensure that their conduct is consistent with human rights standards
  • Make alliances with appropriate authorities including police, anti-trafficking organizations, child welfare agencies and public-private partnerships with governmental and international institutions
  • Contribute to the prevention of trafficking, including awareness raising and educational campaigns
  • Make annual public reports on performance

Dodd-Frank Act conflict minerals reporting provision

Publicly traded companies that use conflict minerals to manufacture products are already required by law to issue an annual report to the SEC. A provision of the Dodd-Frank Act (Section 1502) amends Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by imposing a reporting requirement on publicly traded companies that manufacture products with conflict minerals.

Photo: Flickr user, Wilfraco


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