May 31st marks the third annual deadline for electronics, manufacturing, and other companies to file conflict minerals reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as part of their obligation under Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. With three years of reporting now completed, the SEC must follow through on its responsibility to hold companies accountable for the content of these reports by ensuring that companies have filed complete and accurate reports that meet regulatory requirements.
The reporting requirement impacts all companies publicly traded in the United States with products containing any of the four conflict minerals: tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold.
Dodd-Frank 1502, the corresponding SEC Conflict Minerals Rule, and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance are important transparency measures to help stem the flow of conflict minerals from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo), where over 5.4 million people have died since 1993 as a result of armed conflict. These measures are one part of a comprehensive approach to addressing this issue. Other policy steps on governance are also needed to end the conflict, grand corruption, and wider repression in Congo.
Since the first filing deadline in 2014, there has been steady progress both in supply chain management and impact on armed group funding in Congo. Today, 216 out of approximately 324 smelters and refiners worldwide (67 percent) have passed conflict-free audits and an additional 50 smelters/refiners are in the process of being audited, for a total of 266 participating companies (82 percent). These audits are a crucial step towards ensuring conflict-free supply chains. Additionally, a 2014 independent study by the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) found that 70 percent of tin, tungsten, and tantalum mines surveyed in eastern Congo were no longer controlled by armed groups, and 204 mines in Congo are now officially certified as conflict-free.
Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “Dodd-Frank Section 1502 is increasing the rule of law in a previously conflict-rife minerals trade in Congo and the region, helping to make 70% of tin, tantalum, and tungsten mines conflict-free, as IPIS found. Several companies such as Intel, Apple, and Ford are leading the way to implement the law and go beyond, demanding increased transparency from suppliers and traders – a far cry from the pre-Dodd-Frank era of zero supply chain transparency. However, some companies are still choosing to do next to nothing to show that they actually investigated their supply chains to know whether or not there are conflict minerals in them. That must change.”
Brad Brooks-Rubin, Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “It is time for the SEC to follow through on company compliance on conflict minerals. Not all companies are doing proper due diligence and taking this regulatory reporting requirement seriously. In order for there to be meaningful industry-wide change, the SEC must take steps to demonstrate that companies will be held appropriately accountable for the content of their reports.”
Annie Callaway, Advocacy & Activist Manager at the Enough Project, said: “Through the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, dozens of schools, cities, and states across the country and internationally have implemented policies that alter their procurement structures to favor companies that are working to become conflict-free. These entities, as well as consumers and investors more broadly, rely on accurate conflict minerals reports in order to make informed purchasing decisions and evaluate whether product supply chains directly or indirectly fund armed violence in Congo.”
Companies and governments, both in the West and in Central Africa, must take further steps in addition to the SEC reporting requirement to help end the conflict minerals trade in Congo. Companies should urge their suppliers to source from conflict-free mines in Congo, and commit resources to livelihoods support for Congolese mining communities. The U.S. and European governments should provide additional funding to the minerals certification system in the region, in particular to the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR); they must also pressure the Congolese government to hold elections on time in accordance with Congo’s constitution. However, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the corresponding Conflict Minerals Rule establish an important baseline for transparency that must be enforced in order to remain effective.
About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org