A Multi-stakeholder Approach to Addressing Conflict in the Congo

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is planning on releasing draft rules today, Dec 15 outlining how companies will need to report on conflict minerals from the Congo in their supply chains (this is a new reporting requirement included in the Dodd-Frank Finance Reform Act (on page 838) for companies using tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold in their products).

Last month we helped organize a
meeting with the SEC to deliver our multi-stakeholder comments (that several of us spent at least 50 hours of conference calls developing). We had 21 signatures from manufacturers, socially responsible investors and NGOs. Organizations who signed on:

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
Africa Faith and Justice Network
As You Sow
Boston Common Asset Management
Calvert Asset Management Co., Inc.   
Congo Global Action
Dell Inc.
EMC Corporation
Enough Project
Ford Motor Company
Friends of the Congo
Future 500
General Electric Company
Hewlett-Packard Company
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Jesuit Conference
Jewish World Watch
Microsoft Corporation
Trillium Asset Management
Unity Minerals Inc.

We feel our network approach is pragmatic and unprecedented. In looking over all of the
other comments submitted to the SEC, it appears we are the only diverse multi-stakeholder group that commented on Special Provision 1502. We did half of the SEC’s work for them because we found solutions that are acceptable by both the activists and the corporations (no easy task!). We hope to see several of our recommendations in the draft rules that will be issued this tomorrow.

A group of retailers also gave their comments to the SEC stating that they should not have to abide by these new rules. You can read RILA’s
comments and the WSJ article for more detail. RSN’s position is that if the retailer has any private label product with its brand name on it that contains conflict minerals (such as gold jewelry, electronic toys, appliances, or anything that is soldered together – since there is tin in solder), then that retailer should have to follow the same rules as everyone else and report on it if it is using minerals from the Congo in its products.

The time for finger-pointing and trying to water down this provision is over. We now have to roll up our sleeves and start implementing systems that will audit the smelters, that will trace the minerals to the mine, and that will ensure the revenues and mining conditions are not contributing to exploiting, raping or killing the Congolese people.

We do not want and we are not asking for an all-out boycott of Congolese minerals. We are already starting to develop systems that support safe and just mining in the Congo that benefit local communities. There are companies, investors and civil society organizations that want to make this work for everyone. We invite others to join us in developing these multi-stakeholder and multi-industry solutions.

To read our letter to the SEC, please visit our Mineral Resources page

RSN Staff