Investors Call on Equipment Manufacturers to Cease Sourcing from Democratic Republic of the Congo
February 2, 2010 – Trillium Asset Management Corporation has joined a coalition of investors in calling on major electronics, medical device and automobile component manufactures, to ensure that the companies are not aiding conflict and human rights abuses by purchasing supplies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The investors, who represent almost $200 billion in assets, have issued a statement calling on companies to condemn the use of minerals whose trade promotes the conflict in the DRC and take immediate steps to ensure that these minerals are not used in their products.
The Investor Statement calls on companies to address the role conflict minerals play by implementing a system for determining the origins of materials, creating a non-conflict material policy and working with their suppliers to ensure adherence to it.
The DRC, which has been plagued by a civil war since 1998, continues to lose 45,000 people each month to violence and disease, even though the war officially ended in 2003. In total, more than 5.4 million people have lost their lives and millions more have been displaced. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the widespread sexual violence against women in the eastern Congo “a crime against humanity.”
The militias that are responsible for the conflict use the abundance of coltan, gold, tin and tungsten deposits (which make the DRC one of the most mineral rich countries in the world) to finance their operations. These militias, who control most of the mines in the eastern DRC, demand bribes, unofficial taxes and other payments for the minerals. The minerals are smuggled into neighboring countries including Rwanda and Burundi, smelted and eventually used in making laptops, cell phones, medical devices, airplane engines, and other consumer goods.
Some companies are already addressing this issue, most notably Hewlett Packard, which has implemented a metals traceability project. In addition, the EICC (Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition) and GeSI (Global E-Sustainability Initiative) have recently commissioned the nonprofit organization RESOLVE to map the supply chain of various metals including tin and tantalum, which is made from processing coltan.
For more information:
“Investor Statement Regarding Conflict Minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” January 11, 2010.
“Boundaries of Responsibility,” Investing For a Better World, October 2008.
“Investors Urge Companies to Keep Minerals from War-Torn Congo Out of Supply Chains,” Social Investment Forum press release, January 14, 2010.