Companies show willingness to police suppliers on conflict minerals

I was recently in Paris at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), helping to facilitate the third meeting that it, with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), hosted on the due diligence efforts that companies are implementing on conflict minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. In June, the OECD was scheduled to release progress reports on the efforts of the implementation project for its five-step Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.

Currently, companies face practical challenges in implementing due diligence. For example, on-the-ground traceability schemes for minerals in the region are not fully in place, and supply chain transparency is murky at best. However, companies are taking significant steps toward due diligence and are progressing quickly in order meet the impending Dodd-Frank legislation and to enable responsible sourcing of the four minerals. BSR is working with the OECD and the downstream companies participating in the pilot participants to collect and report on lessons and best practices from the pilot and will publish the report in November 2012. 

Upstream Companies

Sixty upstream companies (those from mine to smelter) have reported increased awareness of and less skepticism about implementing supply chain due diligence. In fact, a new willingness to spend the necessary resources to implement the OECD Guidance was reported. Several events brought about these changes: the requirements imposed by a new legal framework in the DRC incorporating the OECD Due Diligence Guidance, increased industry coordination through the iTSCi scheme, and the public naming of companies in the last UN Group of Experts report.

The participants emphasized the need for capacity-building, such as trainings, and other support from donors, industry, and governments for the successful implementation of the ICGLR certification scheme, which can be regarded as the institutionalization of the on-the-ground mechanisms for due diligence.

Next page: Downstream companies have adopted mineral sourcing policies