Apple is clear leader in supporting a conflict-free minerals trade; Walmart, Sears and Neiman Marcus are ranked worst; Rankings show steady advances on conflict-free sourcing from Congo, but urgent need for more action to ensure products aren’t linked to mass atrocities and human rights abuses
Washington, DC — Apple, Alphabet (Google), HP, Microsoft, and Intel are leading the way, while Walmart, Sears, and Neiman Marcus are ranked worst, in the Enough Project’s 2017 Conflict Minerals Company Rankings, published today. The new rankings report examines 20 of the world’s largest consumer electronics and jewelry retail companies on their efforts to support a conflict-free minerals trade and ensure their products aren’t linked to a range of abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Apple emerged as the clear leader with its consistent fulfillment of the rankings criteria indicating that the company has committed substantial resources to developing processes for sourcing minerals from mines that benefit Congolese communities. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, ranks second overall and HP, Microsoft, and Intel round out the top five companies. Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co. lead the pack in the jewelry retail industry with other companies from this industry lagging far behind.
Overall, 11 companies, including some of the world’s most recognized brands like Neiman Marcus, Sears, and Walmart were ranked in the red, indicating they were making little effort to combat the trade in conflict minerals from Congo. The rankings also clearly indicate that the consumer electronics industry as a whole is more advanced than the jewelry retail sector in corporate efforts to improve supply chain transparency and opportunities for conflict-free sourcing from Congo.
The 2017 rankings build on Enough’s 2010 and 2012 consumer electronics rankings and 2014 jewelry leaders review. The results this year highlight the steady advances that have been made since Enough conducted its first company rankings seven years ago and reveal some corporate trailblazers that are supporting a conflict-free minerals trade in eastern Congo. Many of the ranked companies have consistently improved the quality of their due diligence programs, including developing and implementing more sophisticated risk management processes and moving beyond annual reporting. Top-scoring companies are also enhancing their efforts with regard to sourcing conflict-free minerals from Congo and progress in Congo’s mining areas demonstrates tangible impact to which company efforts contribute. As of April 2017, 420 mines in Congo had been verified as conflict-free. In 2010, at the time of Enough’s first rankings, no mines had received this designation.
The rankings also expose the considerable need for more action – especially with regard to increasing the opportunities for conflict-free gold sourcing from Congo, and better supporting safe, legal, viable livelihoods in Congolese mining communities – spotlighting companies who do little to ensure they are not contributing to the devastating consequences of the conflict minerals trade.
Annie Callaway, report author and Advocacy Manager at the Enough Project, said: “Consumers deserve to know whether the products they purchase are linked to conflict financing, mass atrocities, and grave human rights abuses in Congo. The results of the Enough Project’s 2017 company rankings indicate that some companies are beginning to more thoroughly understand and embrace due diligence and responsible sourcing practices, but all companies that use these minerals should commit additional resources in support of a truly conflict-free minerals trade. That means actively contributing to collaborative multistakeholder and livelihoods initiatives in order to build long-lasting systems that benefit the Congolese people, consumers, investors, and corporate supply chains alike.”
Worldwide, the consumer electronics and jewelry retail industries are among the largest end-users of tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold (3TG), which they use in a wide array of products, from wedding rings to smartphones. These minerals have been linked to mass atrocities in eastern Congo through financing armed groups and state military units that have committed serious abuses like rape and abductions. For decades, activists and affected communities in Congo have called attention to these links.
Students participating in Enough’s Conflict-Free Campus Initiative have pushed their school administrations to implement procurement policies that consider company conflict minerals programs before procuring from them. More than 25 schools as well as seven cities and the states of California and Maryland have all passed resolutions stating their preference for purchasing from companies that source responsibly from Congo.
The report highlights that, as a result of the unique leverage they have over their supply chains, multinational companies that profit from Congo’s minerals can help address the links between conflict and mining.
John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project: “Since the Enough Project’s first company rankings in 2010, many companies have bought in to the idea that conflict-free minerals sourcing from Congo is possible. Thanks to consumer activism, especially from students and conscientious university procurement departments, companies now know that if they do nothing about this issue they risk losing customers. This new rankings report will hopefully generate additional momentum from the leading companies and put increased pressure on the laggards so that global supply chains no longer contribute to Congo’s ongoing crisis.”
Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: “Amidst growing political turmoil in Congo, multinational companies that rely on these minerals have a role to play in promoting rule of law and security there. It’s critically urgent now to shine even brighter light on supply chains originating in Congo. Consumers, investors, and companies can all help ensure that there are costs imposed for the violent or corrupt exploitation of minerals, and contribute to growing opportunities for safe, sustainable livelihoods in Congo’s mining sectors.”
Click here for the full company rankings report.
The rankings report highlights certain companies for going above and beyond to get more directly at the heart of maintaining robust due diligence practices and sourcing conflict-free minerals from Congo.
- Apple’s Supply Chain Risk Identification and Mitigation: Apple not only has found better ways of addressing incidents within its own supply chain, but it has also helped develop shared centralized platforms for risk assessment that other companies can use.
- Google’s High-Scoring Debut: Despite only recently becoming engaged on conflict minerals work, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has quickly become a frontrunner, ranking second overall among the 20 companies.
- Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co.’s Public Advocacy for the Conflict Minerals Rule: The two companies, in a league of their own compared to their jewelry industry peers, have been distinctly outspoken on the importance of maintaining strong due diligence reporting mandates, including advocating for the continued thorough implementation of Dodd-Frank 1502 and the corresponding SEC Conflict Minerals rule.
Companies were ranked based on four core categories of criteria:
- Conducting Conflict Minerals Sourcing Due Diligence and Reporting
- Developing a Conflict-Free Minerals Trade and Sourcing Conflict-Free Minerals from Congo, Particularly Gold
- Supporting and Improving Livelihoods for Artisanal Mining Communities in Eastern Congo
- Conflict-Free Minerals Advocacy
Click here to explore the Annex detailing each company rankings.
The rankings report has several recommendations for companies in the consumer electronics, jewelry retail, and other industries that consume 3TG minerals, as well as their associated supply chains:
- Improve and support public reporting on supply chain due diligence. All companies, including publicly traded, privately held, U.S. and foreign companies, using 3TG minerals should conduct supply chain due diligence in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Guidance, and report publicly on that due diligence through their websites and according to any applicable legal requirements. Companies bound by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Conflict Minerals Rule in particular should continue to file their Conflict Minerals Reports, and improve that reporting by describing their specific supply chain due diligence practices in detail, listing their smelters and/or refiners and highlighting any innovative ways they have gone beyond the bounds of the law to support a conflict-free minerals market.
- Conduct continuous due diligence, not just annual reporting. Companies should consider due diligence a continuous, year-round endeavor that will become easier and cheaper with time, but will never be complete and should be focused on making steady improvement in areas where risk mitigation remains necessary.
- Engage in multistakeholder initiatives to design and support progressive initiatives. With the laws mandating conflict minerals reporting continually under threat of being repealed or undermined, it is critical for companies to begin or renew their engagement with multistakeholder initiatives in order to ensure the momentum built up since Dodd-Frank 1502’s passage will continue.
- Support conflict-free sourcing opportunities and livelihood opportunities in mining communities with financial investment and public support. Conflict-free sourcing initiatives with strong traceability and assurance systems, particularly in the artisanal mining sectors in Congo, need investment. Companies can make an important impact by making financial contributions, improving their awareness of the challenges and opportunities related to developing conflict-free sourcing opportunities and livelihoods, and increasing public awareness of the need for these initiatives.
- Set the bar higher. With supply chain transparency and in-region engagement improving, opportunities to set the bar higher and fill remaining gaps have emerged. Companies should ensure, for example, that their due diligence and risk assessment includes specific attention to mining in national parks in Congo and the wider region, given the unique proliferation, collateral damage, and rule of law challenges specific to mining and armed group activity in national parks.
Click here for the full company rankings report.
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ABOUT THE ENOUGH PROJECT – an anti-atrocity policy group
The Enough Project supports peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones. Together with its investigative initiative The Sentry, Enough counters armed groups, violent kleptocratic regimes, and their commercial partners that are sustained and enriched by corruption, criminal activity, and the trafficking of natural resources. By helping to create consequences for the major perpetrators and facilitators of atrocities and corruption, Enough seeks to build leverage in support of peace and good governance. Enough conducts research in conflict zones, engages governments and the private sector on potential policy solutions, and mobilizes public campaigns focused on peace, human rights, and breaking the links between war and illicit profit. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.