Apple’s recently released supplier responsibility report contains good news concerning conflict minerals. The report confirmed that as of last month, all “active, identified tantalum smelters” in the company’s supply chain were verified by third-party auditors to be conflict free. The report states that the company released a list of smelters and refiners in its supply chain whose tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold is conflict free “so it’s clear which ones have been verified as conflict-free.” The electronics industry only uses a “small percentage” of tin, tungsten and gold, according to the report. Apple will continue to require that its suppliers only use conflict-free verified tantalum and will continue to monitor its suppliers’ smelters.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second largest African country, conflict minerals are often mined through forced labor, debt bondange or child slavery. Conflict minerals fund militias in the DRC who terrorize local populations. According to the non-profit organization, Walk Free there has been much progress to rid the electronics industry of conflict minerals. Intel announced recently that all of its new microprocessors will be made conflict minerals free. Intel CEO Brian Kraznich urged other companies to do the same. Perhaps much of the progress can be attributed to a section of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 (Section 1502) which requires companies to publicly disclose their use of conflict minerals from the DRC. The SEC adopted the rule in 2012.
Greenpeace Energy Campaigner Tom Dowdall released a statement congratulating Apple for its “increased transparency about its suppliers.” Dowdall characterized increased transparency at Apple as “becoming a hallmark of Tim Cook’s (the CEO of Apple) leadership at the company.” He urged “Samsung and other consumer electronics companies” to follow Apple’s example “so the industry can exert its collective influence to build devices that are better for people and the planet.”
Instead of avoiding minerals from the DRC, Apple instead opts for supporting “verified supply lines and economic development in the region,” as stated in the supplier report. Apple is driving its smelters and refiners to comply with the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP) or an equivalent third party audit program. The CSFP is part of the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative, and focuses on what it calls a “pinch point” or a “point with relatively few actors” in the global metals supply chain. The CSFP uses an independent third-party audit to identify smelters and refiners that source only conflict free minerals and publishes the list on its website. Apple also works with non-governmental organizations, trade groups, government agencies and other groups to keep pressuring and driving for real change
Photo: ENOUGH Project