Combating Conflict Mineral Use Requires Country of Origin Labeling
by Jessica Plourde Hutter, on July 22, 2016
Better country of origin labeling can prevent the use of conflict minerals.
Many of the most common consumer electronic devices are made with materials and components sourced from around the world. Therefore, it takes a global supply chain to assemble and bring these items to market.
But while supply chains can be lengthy and convoluted, it's important they remain traceable and transparent. Electronics manufacturing firms have to adhere to the country of origin standards that are established under national laws and international trade agreements. They also have to meet customers' expectations in this area.
"It's often difficult for consumers to find out where their favorite products originated."
Consider Fairphone. In 2010, this company launched with the purpose of introducing a smartphone to the market that would be made entirely from conflict-free materials. Phones typically contain dozens of materials, including tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. These four are often mined in a manner that financially supports armed conflict in the developing world, and are defined by Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act as "conflict minerals." What's worse, it's often difficult for consumers to find out where their favorite products originated.
Laws on the books in both the U.S. and Europe are already seeking to address this problem. For instance, the Dodd-Frank Act requires electronics manufacturers to determine whether they source conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbors, and if this supports armed groups. Fairphone's goal, according to Sustainable Brands, is not just to stop the use of conflict materials, but also to find legitimate mineral sources in developing countries so as to support their economies.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact that their purchases are having on the world. But if the industry is going to satisfy them, it needs to be more transparent and take greater care when tracking products and their components through the supply chain. An Enterprise Labeling Solution can add intelligence and centralized control to this process, making it easier to establish reliable country of origin practices.
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