How business can help achieve a conflict-free Congo

Editor's note: This is the fourth piece in a four-part series by Patricia Jurewicz of the Responsible Sourcing Network about how business can address the issue of conflict minerals in their supply chains. Part I examined how companies are affected by the SEC conflict mineral rule. Part II identified resources for conflict mineral reporting. Part III discussed the partnerships between industry and government to establish conflict-free markets.

Little has changed in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or Congo) over the past four years. Turmoil in the country has claimed the lives of over five million Congolese and has led to the rape of hundreds of thousands of women.

The violent rebel groups propagating this conflict are largely financed by the mining of precious minerals, according to United Nations reports. So it’s not a surprise that Conflict Mineral Section 1502 was included in the Dodd-Frank Act.

Companies who are taking the lead in setting up conflict-free certification schemes and closed-pipe sources of certified tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (the “conflict minerals”) should be applauded.

But according to a new white paper by the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), not enough are taking action.

Today, RSN is releasing What’s Needed: An Overview of Multi-Stakeholder and Industry Activities to Achieve Conflict-Free Minerals. The white paper draws upon its research of industries that use conflict minerals in their products. With the exception of a few specific companies and industry associations, the aerospace, defense, medical device, jewelry, tooling, retail, apparel, footwear and toy industries have done next to nothing. The automotive, smelter/refiner, and mining industries have made selected efforts, while the electronics industry has been the most proactive in this area.

Photo of workers washing certified conflict-free coltan ore (which makes tantalum) courtesy of Patricia Jurewicz.

Next page: Time for systems to create transparent accountability