Apple released its 2012 Sustainability Report last Friday, and it showed that it is doing some things very well on conflict minerals and other things not very well.
Apple fully traced its supply chains for the four conflict minerals—tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold—which is further than other companies have gone. They found 175 smelters in their supply chain, about 50 more than last year. Fully identifying the number of smelters that Apple uses is a tremendous step and should be applauded, as many companies say this level of tracing it is too difficult to do. Identifying smelters makes it much easier to track conflict minerals. Apple is also working on training smelters to become knowledgeable about conflict minerals, which is very positive.
However, there is nothing in the report on work to set up a certification system to establish which minerals are conflict-free, or to develop conflict-free mines in Congo. That is where a lot of action is needed this year on conflict minerals and where other companies are starting to take a lead. But there is much more to be done.
As an industry leader, Apple could help lead this work, as De Beers did for conflict diamonds in helping develop the Kimberley Process certification scheme 10 years ago. Apple could work with suppliers to develop conflict-free supply chains like Motorola's "Solutions for Hope" (subsequently joined by HP and Intel), and help communities in Congo.
Here are some relevant sections of the report, which can be found here in full:
As the EICC/GeSI initiative completes smelter audits in tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold, we will require our suppliers to source from these conflict-free certified smelters.
Apple was one of the first major electronics companies to completely map its supply chain in order to trace the materials used in our products back to their source. Since we began this effort, we have identified 218 Apple suppliers that use tantalum, tin, tungsten, or gold to manufacture components for Apple products and the 175 smelters they source from, broken out as shown in the following table.
In partnership with fellow EICC and GeSI member companies, we are also working on an outreach program to train management at smelters about the need for conflict-free sourcing of raw materials and in the EICC/GeSI certification process. To date, more than 34 smelters have received onsite training and consultation through this endeavor.
Photo: A miner in Masisi (Enough / Laura Heaton)