SmartPlanet: Conflict-Free Supply Chains – Tracing, Auditing, Certification – Solid Advance in True Cost Economics


The top firms that champion conflict-free supply chains

Intel, HP, and Apple have received top marks for their efforts to eradicate conflict minerals from supply chains in a new report published by the Enough Project.

The anti-genocide nonprofit organization’s report, dubbed “Taking Conflict Out of Consumer Gadgets” (.pdf), researched how leading technology developers and manufacturers use “conflict minerals” in their supply chains since the last report was published in 2010. These types of minerals, including tantalum, tin, and tungsten, are often mined in places which are considered politically unstable, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo — areas that may have civil war, corruption or human rights problems.

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Unfortunately, they are also used in a wide variety of technological products.

Each firm was assessed on their efforts in eradicating such minerals from their product lines and supply chains. Intel, HP, Apple, and Motorola were called the “pioneers of progress” as they have created projects aimed at developing ‘clean’ mineral trades, surveying protocol and operating with “due diligence” to prevent unethical or corrupt trade.

Each company was ranked based on three main areas within achieving “conflict-free” supply chains — tracing, auditing and certification. Some critical points include:

  • Identifying and auditing smelters
  • Sourcing from certified, conflict-free mines that help local communities
  • Joining the Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PAA) which supports establishing conflict-free sources;
  • Preventing tin smuggling — prolific in countries including Rwanda;
  • Preventing rare-earth material black markets, with a particular emphasis on the gold trade.

According to the report, SanDisk, Philips, Sony, Panasonic, RIM, and AMD have made “initial steps” to prevent trade involved in conflict, whereas HTC, Sharp, Nikon, and Nintendo gained the lowest marks, having made “little or no progress” in recent years.

The full rankings are [shown in chart].

Phi Beta Iota:  “Social Value” buying has been around for a few years, with bar codes being read by hand-held and then offering up a green, yellow, or red judgment.  Generally some small group decides to look at virtual water, child labor, fuel used, toxins released.  What has not happened is the emergence or convergence into a collaborative grid able to cross-fertilize and utlimately provide a true cost read-out on every product, service, and behavior.  That will happen eventually, and when it does, it will catch major markets by surprise, and flip the tortilla — the smaller “conscious” companies will suddenly surpass the larger “oblivious” companies in sales.

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