None of the ten largest automotive companies consider the human rights impacts of the mining of their metals as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts. These companies are at risk of being linked to grave human rights violations. These are the main findings in SOMO’s paper 'Driven by responsibility? Top ten car manufacturers – A CSR analysis'.
While the urgent need to address such issues is recognized by other industries, such as the electronics industry, automotive companies have remained passive until now. SOMO researcher Tim Steinweg states: “As modern cars contain more and more electronic components, the link between this industry and conflict minerals from the DRC becomes greater. Yet none of these companies are undertaking any efforts.” The paper also shows that most of the companies have systems in place that enable them to trace the origin of the metals they use, and that environmental and cost considerations play a role in sourcing policies. It seems a matter of willingness as to whether include human rights considerations in these systems when sourcing materials. The research also shows that the sector has well-developed recycling mechanisms, which can be used to reduce the need for newly mined materials.
In contrast to the automotive industry, companies in the electronics industry are increasingly committing themselves to addressing the issues in this phase of their supply chains. This industry is currently undertaking mapping exercises to determine the origin of the metals they use, and first steps are being taken towards a certification scheme for one specific metal, namely tantalum. While these efforts have not yet resulted in concrete improvements for workers and communities around such mines, they indicate that this industry is increasingly recognizing its responsibility for the entire supply chain.
Automakers could collaborate with the electronics industry in these efforts. The combined market shares of the two industries are significant and this combined market power can potentially contribute to more sustainable mining practices. Steinweg explains: “If these industries make serious work of sustainable sourcing of materials, mining companies, traders and other middlemen will have no choice but to clean up their act”.
SOMO’s publication ‘Driven by Corporate Social Responsibility?’ follows a combined statement of Socially Responsible Investors and faith-based funds that call on companies to acknowledge and address the human rights abuses in the DRC.