Throughout the month of June, three major companies broke ranks from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announcing that they do not support its stance against Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. These announcements came at the heels of an extensive grassroots advocacy campaign, with Raise Hope for Congo and Global Witness activists urging companies to step up for 1502. Such outspokenness from industry leaders comes as a huge success to the conflict minerals movement, and more companies should follow suit.
On June 27, the Enough Project, Global Witness, and five other human rights groups called on other leading electronics and automotive companies to make public statements against the Chamber’s threats to overturn section 1502, which addresses the trade in conflict minerals by armed groups in eastern Congo.
Section 1502 requires companies that use conflict minerals— tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold sourced from Congo and its neighboring countries—to carry out due diligence on their supply chains and report publicly on the steps they have taken. In May, the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre wrote to prominent electronics and automotive companies asking them to clarify their positions on the Chamber’s attempts to derail section 1502. In the following weeks, Microsoft, General Electric, and Motorola Solutions took a stand and separated themselves from the Chamber’s position on conflict minerals.
Other companies—most notably AT&T, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola Mobility, and Verizon—have responded but failed to take a firm stance on the issue. According to Jana Morgan of Global Witness:
Leading companies at the center of the international debate on conflict minerals appear to be trying to have their cake and eat it too. They can’t pledge support for efforts to stamp out trade in conflict minerals in Congo, while simultaneously supporting the Chamber.
Enough has urged companies and the Chamber to support section 1502 since October 2011, when it launched the Step Up for 1502, which prompted thousands of consumers to stage virtual sit-ins on the Facebook walls of major companies like Dell and Panasonic.
Many of these electronics and automotive companies are closely linked with the Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers. Dell, for example is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AT&T is on the board of both the Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers. Such companies, therefore, are perfectly situated to take a powerfully influential position in favor of Section 1502.
“Human rights advocates applaud Microsoft, GE, and Motorola Solutions for taking a stand on this life-or-death issue,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project. “Other leading electronics, automotive, and jewelry companies must now follow their lead.”
Photo: U.S. Chamber of Commerce building (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)