RSN Updates

Read our updates to learn more about RSN’s work.


Canada Fails to Take Action to Reduce Trade in Conflict Minerals

Canada Fails to Take Action to Reduce Trade in Conflict Mineralsn

On September 24, private members bill C-486 was defeated in Canada’s parliament prohibiting the bill from receiving a second reading and referral. C-486 was introduced by Paul Dewar, New Democratic Party (NDP) MP and Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs in March 2013. It had the intention of aligning Canada with other ongoing international efforts to reduce the trade in conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and surrounding countries through mineral supply chain due diligence.

The bill came within 19 votes of passing but was defeated by conservatives who instead wanted a voluntary proposal that would not strictly mandate company supply chain due diligence. Modeled on the precedent of Dodd-Frank Section 1502, Dewar’s conflict minerals bill sought to obligate Canadian companies using tin, tungsten, tantalum or gold—3TG minerals—in their products to undertake supply chain due diligence. With this due diligence activity, it is hoped that companies will be better able to ascertain the source of the minerals and the extent to which the minerals could be contributing to conflict.

Unfortunately, opponents voting against the bill focused on the downstream repercussions on Canadian companies of the mandatory due diligence rather than the potential upstream benefits in the DRC and surrounding countries. This sentiment was expressed by Louis Brown, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, in the last house debate on the issue. According to Brown, “As a result [of the bill’s passage] an extremely wide range of companies of varying sizes, functions, and sectors would potentially be implicated by the bill and saddled with significant costs associated with reporting.” But, multiple studies have shown that this ‘crippling cost’ argument is unfounded. A bit contradictorily, opponents complained that the bill had a wider scope than Dodd-Frank but then also argued that it was too limited as it only focused on Africa.

Supporters of the bill expressed the importance of obligatory rather than voluntary supply chain due diligence in order to ensure company engagement on the issue. As expressed by MP Wayne Marston, “When we say ‘voluntary’, to me that fails the test of true due diligence. I come from farm country, and that is like saying to the fox that we trust it not to come near the henhouse. It would likely not work here.”

The Responsible Sourcing Network agrees with this sentiment and encourages Dewar to continue his advocacy on the issue through his Just Minerals Campaign. It is vitally important that jurisdictions introducing new conflict minerals legislation including the proposed EU legislation follow the precedent of mandatory supply chain due diligence and disclosure set in Dodd-Frank 1502. This is critical to ensuring that consistent and robust international standards for downstream corporations are established to bring positive change to the conflict minerals supply chain.


Group of Investors Urge European Union to Adopt Stronger Conflict Minerals Legislation

Group of Investors Urge European Union to Adopt Stronger Conflict Minerals Legislation

Yesterday, global sustainable and responsible investors and investment organisations representing more than €855 billion in assets under management sent a joint statement to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council. The statement urges EU policy makers to ensure more compatibility between the proposed EU conflict minerals regulation and Section 1502 of the US Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (known informally as “Dodd-Frank Section 1502”), which aims to prevent mineral sourcing revenues from fuelling the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The statement was initiated by a working group composed of Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Eurosif, Responsible Sourcing Network, Trillium Asset Management, Triodos Investment Management, and US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment and has been signed by other organisations.

Read the full press release

Read the investor letter with the full list of signatories

As the new European Commission will be inaugurated in the coming weeks and the European Parliament is scheduled to discuss the proposed regulation in December 2014, the statement signatories are expressing their concern about human rights risks related to mineral sourcing and their views on how regulation can help to limit this risk. To reinforce positive developments following the U.S. rules and to maximize effectiveness, the proposed EU regulation requires two key changes. In their statement, investors call on the European legislative bodies to better align the proposed EU regulation with Section 1502, by making the regulation mandatory and including in its scope all companies that manufacture products containing “conflict minerals.”

The investor group urges the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council to adapt the EU legislation to better fit with the precedent set by the U.S. rules to promote companies’ broad adoption of robust conflict minerals due diligence and reporting.


Tesco, World’s Second-Largest Retailer, Signs RSN’s Cotton Pledge as Annual Uzbek Cotton Fair Begins

World’s Largest Retailers Take Stand Against Forced Labor in Uzbek Cotton Harvesting | RSN

Tesco has joined the fight against forced labor in Uzbek cotton by signing RSN’s Cotton Pledge. This support comes as the country prepares for the annual International Uzbek Cotton and Textile Fair, scheduled for October 14th and 15th in Tashkent. Retailers and apparel brands are taking action to prevent Uzbek cotton from entering their supply chains. Markets for Uzbek cotton sourced with forced labor continue to diminish as consumers become more aware of the egregious human rights violations that occur during the Uzbek cotton harvest, with over four million Uzbek citizens forced to pick cotton under threat of penalty.

Read our press release welcoming Tesco as signatory to the Cotton Pledge

Read the Russian language version

Due to the pressure on the Uzbek government by the international community, there have been some success in reducing human rights violations. Finally, after five years of coordinated advocacy, children ages 7-15 are almost completely absent from the fields, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) was allowed to monitor the cotton harvest for the “worst forms of child labor” last year. Much of the international pressure has come from retail companies who have signed RSN’s Cotton Pledge, committing to not use Uzbek cotton harvested with forced labor in their products. In addition to Tesco, recent signatories include Lacoste and Raven+Lily.

Retailers and brands have the power to decide where to source their products. We urge them to sign the Cotton Pledge if they haven’t yet. With a growing majority of global retailers and brands pledging not to use Uzbek cotton, the Government of Uzbekistan will be pressed to dismantle its orchestrated system of forced labor, and students, teachers, and civilians will be able to continue their normal lives.


U.S. DoC Smelter and Refiner List Brings More Transparency to the 3TG Supply Chain

In early September, the U.S. Department of Commerce published a list of more than 400 smelters and refiners located around the world. This list, published in response to a requirement in Dodd-Frank Section 1502 on Conflict Minerals (1502), identifies smelters and refiners of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold—the “3TG” minerals.

As a part of 1502, different U.S. Government institutions, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commerce Dept., were given specific roles to help carry out the intention of the law—to increase conflict free mineral sourcing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding region. Last year, as part of its mandate, the GAO published a report detailing progress made by the different government institutions to be in compliance with 1502. The Commerce Dept. was criticized for failing to meet its January 2013 deadline to issue a list. In response to the GAO report, “Commerce concurred with the GAO’s recommendations and noted that it will submit a listing of all known conflict minerals processing facilities worldwide to Congress by September 1, 2014.”

Nearly making this deadline, the Commerce Dept.’s International Trade Administration (ITA) agency presented the list to Congress September 5, 2014. Using data from the U.S. Geological Survey and supplemented by other compiled lists of conflict minerals smelters, this list highlights a range of large and small-scale smelters and refiners throughout the world in locations such as Australia, China, Brazil, and Russia.

This list is intended to help downstream companies identify the facilities that make up the critical “choke point” in the 3TG supply chain. The smelter and refiner level is the step in the supply chain where one can discern the country of origin and mine of origin of 3TG because it is at this processing step that the raw ores are transformed into refined metals.

Ideally, this list would have also provided information as to which facilities source from DRC and the surrounding region and which have been certified as “conflict-free” to better assist companies in their 3TG supply chain due diligence efforts. Unfortunately, staff at the Commerce Dept. stated that they did not “have the ability to distinguish such facilities.” Thus companies must continue to rely on independent initiatives like the Conflict Free Smelter Program, which is managed by the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative to obtain such information.

Although this due diligence information would have been a useful addition to the list, the list itself is still a valuable tool and an important source of information in the effort to make the 3TG supply chain more transparent, accurate, and accountable.


RSN Director Patricia Jurewicz Speaks with Marketplace on Supply Chain Transparency

If a handbag is stamped “made in Italy,” it may seem safe to assume that it is, well, entirely made in Italy. But it’s not so simple. RSN Director Patricia Jurewicz speaks with Marketplace about the difficulty of determining country of origin in complex supply chains with little transparency.