Business

US firms 'fail' in conflict mineral disclosures - report

A gold miner scoops mud while digging an open pit at the Chudja mine in the Kilomoto concession near the village of Kobu in this February 23, 2009 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Conflict minerals that help fuel war in the Democratic Republic of Congo often end up in electronics

A report by Amnesty International and Global Witness has alleged that nearly 80% of US firms are failing to adequately check their supply chains for conflict minerals.

New financial regulations require US firms to check whether their mineral purchases are supporting conflict in Central Africa.

2014 was the first year companies were required to file the reports.

Conflict mineral purchases often include tin, tungsten, and gold.

Those minerals are used often in electronics, and companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Intel, and others have come under fire for failing to investigate their supply chains adequately.

"Most of America's biggest corporations have blind spots in their supply chains - leaving them oblivious to whether the products they sell contain minerals that have funded conflict," wrote Dr Denis Mukwege in an introduction to the report. Dr Mukwege is the founder and medical director of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has treated more than 19,000 rape victims.

"Companies must do more to find out how the minerals they are buying have been produced and traded," he said.

Unknowns

The Amnesty/Global Witness report surveyed the regulatory filings of 100 firms, including some of the US's biggest companies.

The report says that only 21% of those companies are following the provision of the conflict mineral filing regulations, which were instituted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed in the wake of the US financial crisis.

Under the law, firms must now submit annual reports to US regulators detailing their efforts to investigate their supply chains, such as contacting the smelters or refiners that process the minerals they use.

The report says that many companies submitted just the bare minimum paperwork necessary.

Only 15% of firms indicated that they had contacted the facilities that process the minerals in their products. More than 40% of firms did not indicate that they had a policy in place to identify the risks in their supply chain.

Some of the firms with the thinnest regulatory filings included relative unknowns, like Mindray Medical and Zoom Telephonics, and bigger, more well known firms such as Home Depot and Costco, the report says.

Stephen Holmes, a spokesman for Home Depot, said in a statement: "We're confident that our 2013 filing complies, and we're committed to responsible sourcing and expect all suppliers manufacturing our products to adopt sourcing practices to obtain products and materials from suppliers that are not involved in funding conflict in the DRC or neighbouring countries."

Companies such as Philips, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric were singled out for their rigorous reports.

Firms have two years to come under full compliance with the law. The second round of reports is due in June 2015.

The full list of the firms whose conflict mineral investigations the report deemed satisfactory are:

  • 3M
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond
  • Cisco Systems
  • Clean Energy Fuels
  • CSP
  • Cubic Corp
  • Eltek
  • Embraer
  • General Electric
  • Helen of Troy
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Intel Corporation
  • Macy's
  • Microsoft
  • Philips
  • ResMed
  • Sigma Designs
  • Tesla Motors
  • Tessco Technologies
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Toyota

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