Electronics companies address issues in the mining industry
One year into its campaign, makeITfair, a coalition of environmental and human rights organisations, receives promising commitments from the electronics industry. The campaign urges companies to translate these commitments into concrete actions.
"makeITfair welcomes these reactions and hopes these intentions will lead to concrete actions and improvements. At the same time, makeITfair is concerned about the lack of commitment to concrete actions from many companies.", says Esther de Haan from SOMO, the coordinator of makeITfair. makeITfair also expresses its concern about a number of companies that did not respond to its request at all, and those whose responses indicate a lack of ambition and true commitment to adopt a full supply chain responsibility approach.
In November 2007, makeITfair published reports on human rights and environmental risks related to the mining of cobalt, tin and platinum group metals in Africa and their usage in the consumer electronics such as mobile phones and computers. In response, some consumer electronic brand companies have started to map out their supply chains. In January 2008, makeITfair presented the reports to the companies at an international roundtable. In a follow-up to this roundtable, makeITfair developed its list of principles on the CSR issues in the extraction phase, in coordination with a number of NGOs. This list of principles was sent to all major electronic brand companies, with the request to issue a public response on how they would incorporate these recommendations into their CSR and business approach.
Of the twenty-three companies, 17 replied to makeITfair, as did the EICC/GeSI . As a response to makeITfair’s questions, the EICC/GeSI commissioned its own study on the link between the mining industry and electronics in 2007 which was released on the 23th of June. The study confirmed that the industry has a role to play in improving the labour conditions in the extractive phase of the production of electronics. The industry’s response expresses a concern about allegations of poor conditions in the supply chain of these metals and explores possible collaboration with multistakeholder initiatives on social and environmental conditions in the mining industry. At the same time, the industry is of the opinion that tracing the metal used in a particular product is difficult to impossible.
Only Hewlett-Packard addressed the makeITfair list of principles. In its detailed response, HP indicated that it has conducted a study into its own supply chain in an effort to track the metals used. It will request its suppliers to provide declarations of conformity to the EICC code or equivalent principles from their metal suppliers. HP suggests conducting a feasibility study to attempt to trace the tin that it uses back to the mines, as well as cooperation between HP, the EICC and CSR initiatives in the mining sector.
makeITfair’s compilation of company responses to our questionnaire can be found here(opens in new window) .
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