If you’ve been following our story on Precious Materials, specifically mining in DR Congo, then you know for Fairphone, the use of conflict-free minerals in the production of consumer electronics is an important issue and part of our mission toward fairer electronics.
Quite a lot of discussion about conflict minerals stems from an American law, commonly called the Dodd-Frank Act, signed into federal law in July 2010. Within the Act, Section 1502 deals specifically with the use of conflict minerals. This year the concrete implications of this legislation are being felt as the deadline to comply with the new standards comes in May. While the law only applies to companies listed on the US stock exchange, its effects will be felt by the industry as a whole as most American companies have a reach beyond the American consumer market and throughout the world.
This blog gives you an update on the status of the Dodd-Frank Act in the US, related developments in Europe, and how the industry and Fairphone are involved.
US requires disclosure of conflict minerals by end of May
EU legislation builds upon lessons learned in the US
We understand the EU proposal, specifically its voluntary participation, is not perfect, but it’s a good start: If this framework is in place and tested, a next step can be taken to make due diligence compulsory for companies downstream.
In our opinion, and after gaining a better understanding of the perception and apprehension of many companies, this approach will have a better chance (than the American law enforced approach...) at creating positive impact than a mandatory law. That being said, we do believe that in the end, critically examining one’s supply chains and evaluating impact should be an industry-wide practice, which could need legislation if the industry does not engage voluntarily. For now, this is a great first step that should inspire disclosure and engagement throughout the industry.
A point of criticism at this early stage would be that the proposal is currently limited to only tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold. There many more minerals with social and environmental consequences which need to be addressed (for example, platinum, cobalt, and copper). However, we remain hopeful and recognize that just like Fairphone’s own approach, the EU can only make improvements one step at a time.