Apple's Call of Action for Suppliers Sourcing Conflict Minerals

Feb 14, 2014 2:00 PM ET
Campaign: Conflict Minerals

Apple Steps Up The Pressure On 'Conflict Minerals'

On Wednesday Apple announced that they will no longer be sourcing Tantalum from regions of conflict. The electronic tycoon asserted that their Tantalum suppliers are free of Conflict Minerals and that they will be announcing fellow suppliers who have not yet engaged in their due diligence to become conflict-free. Apple was previously scrutinized for their partnership with supplier Foxconn and the horrid working conditions for factory employees. Since then the mega brand has featured due diligence in maintaining and preventing better working conditions in their factories.

In Apple’s annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report they published: "The ethical sourcing of minerals is an important part of our mission to ensure safe and fair working conditions. 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’s senior vice president Jeff Williams mentioned that although Apple is enacting their due diligence for CSR that they want to approach the issue of Conflict Minerals on a broader spectrum. He stated, “we could wave our conflict-free flag but it would do nothing to affect the workers on the ground. And so what we are focused on is getting a critical mass of suppliers verified such that we can truly influence the demand situation and change things."

Conflict Minerals are utilized in almost all manufactured products and are responsible for fueling violent rebel attacks. The consumption of the minerals fund grave human rights abuses by going into the pockets of warlords who dominate African mines for trade and outsourcing. Many people have questioned on what is being done to prevent further damage to the people of Africa and how they personally can make a difference in their lives to stop contributing to the war on Conflict Minerals. 

In August 2011 the SEC created the final rule for Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act regarding the manufacturing of Conflict Minerals. While still in  infancy the law has quickly set into motion the standards of Due Diligence, requiring all U.S. publicly traded companies to report whether their supply chains contain Conflict Minerals and if so to mitigate all use. 

On May 31, 2014 under Section 1502 of the SEC’s Conflict Minerals Rule, U.S. publicly traded companies will have to file a special disclosure for the 12-month reporting period ending on December 31, 2013. The aim of the rule, mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, is to provide transparency into corporate practices and specifically to reduce funding for armed groups involved in human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and surrounding countries. Section 1502 compels public disclosure for any issuer whose products are identified as containing one or more of the four conflict minerals (tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold also known as “3TG”) suspected to have originated in the DRC or surrounding countries. Said minerals are found in thousands of products ranging from electronics such as phones, televisions, and computers to jewelry, toothpaste, PVC pipe, and even anti-microbial fabrics. Minerals contained in products that are found to be sourced from the covered countries will trigger a “not found to be conflict free” disclosure, while minerals that are not found to be sourced from the covered countries will trigger a “conflict free” disclosure. Where an Issuer is unable to determine the source of 3TG minerals, an “Undeterminable” classification may be filed along with a Conflict Minerals Report detailing the reasonable and good faith effort to try to determine their origin.

Stakeholders in the ecosystem of supply chain and regulated materials compliance will be surprised to see the similarities and differences of program progress and supplier profiles across industries.

This benchmarking study will present ACTUAL data, aggregated by industry, to provide insights on:

-Conflict mineral programs in 2013
-Progress to completion of data collection over time
-Incidences of 3TG in the supply chain
-Supplier profiles (by industry and region)
-Challenges incurred in completing the process
-Hurdles of data verification

This report will be preceded by a February 27th webinar. In order to receive an early copy of the benchmarking report, register HERE for the webinar now.