Apple recently released its latest Supplier Responsibility report detailing, among other things, its intention to halt the use of conflict minerals in its gadgets and to list the names and certification status of its minerals suppliers.
Gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum, which are all used to varying degrees in electronic gadgets, are known as conflict minerals. Native to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the desire to monopolise these four minerals has been a contributing factor to conflict in the region with armed groups financing themselves through the sale of the minerals and using violent means to strategically control mines where these minerals are sourced.
According to the report, Apple has recently confirmed that all tantalum smelters in their supply chain have been verified as conflict-free by third party auditors. Of the remaining three minerals, Apple stipulates the following: "...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."
It's rare that a brand itself will purchase the conflict minerals direct instead being the last link in a long chain of supply that, according to Green Biz, includes contract manufacturers, components manufacturers, materials processors, distributors, smelters and middlemen who buy from the mines.
A company with as much influential sway in the electronics field as Apple could help encourage other organisations to follow suit in making their supply chains more transparent and conflict-free. Just last month, the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, or CFSI (run by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition) announced that it had validated conflict-free smelters or refiners for each of the four minerals after undertaking an extensive auditing process, making it now somewhat easier for electronics companies to source conflict-free minerals. Recently, Intel also announced its intention to source conflict-free minerals for its processors.
Apple's Supplier Responsibility report is available as a PDF here. To learn more about conflict minerals, visit CFSI's website or check out the Enough Project's 'Raise Hope for Congo' campaign.