Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Conflict minerals - naming and shaming

The Enough project today released a report, "Getting to Conflict-Free", about corporate action on conflict minerals. The report is described in a blog post by Aaron Hall at the Enough project's website.

The most famous campaign to reduce the profitability of the mineral extraction industry in conflict zones is of course the one on conflict diamonds, which over time became visible enough to be referenced in several hit movies (including Blood Diamond, with Leonardo DiCaprio, and the James Bond installment Die Another Day) — a sign of high public awareness, if not always knowledge :-).

Unfortunately, the minerals that help fund the conflict in Eastern Congo are less photogenic as well as harder to track than diamonds. Gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten, coltan — all can be melted or ground down, so that physical tracking becomes impossible. The only way to track them, then, is to have a completely transparent supply chain which accounts for every gram of gold, tin, etc. that corporations use.

The Enough project's report is a first attempt to investigate how well corporations are doing in moving towards such transparency and accountability. The report ranks major technology companies on "percentage of progress toward responsible sourcing on conflict minerals". The top performer is HP, at just 32%, followed by Intel, at 24%. Worst on their list are SanDisk and Toshiba.

Although the blog post gives the key take-away findings, the report is worth reading for its discussion of the many challenges associated with achieving "progress toward responsible sourcing". (The report is not very clear, unfortunately, on the ranking methodology, but more detailed rankings can be downloaded from the Enough website here.)

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