Published on: 2010-09-03

The Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI) is extremely concerned about poor social and environmental practices in some mine sites and within portions of the metals supply chains which supply raw materials to the Information Communications Technology (ICT) industry. Mining activities that fuel conflict are unacceptable.

GeSI member companies are committed to upholding responsible practices in their operations and working with suppliers to meet social and environmental standards.

The mining of metals is one of the earliest supply chain stages and can be many layers removed from a final ICT product. There are often multiple sources for metals including recycled metal, metal inventories and virgin ore and products can contain numerous materials. GeSI members do not have direct purchasing relationships with mining companies.

GeSI can influence standards throughout the supply chain and within the wider industry. Due to conflict concerns regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a number of member companies have taken steps to avoid purchasing components that contain tantalum sourced from the DRC. This has primarily been achieved by seeking assurances from their suppliers that their products do not contain tantalum from the DRC.

Additionally, GeSI recognizes that effective initiatives on the social and environmental conditions associated with the mining of metals will require working collaboratively with other stakeholders including mining companies, local NGOs who have raised concerns about poor practices, workers and trade unions involved in mining, other industrial sectors who purchase and use metals, the governments and multi-government organizations with jurisdiction over these issues and the end users.

GeSI is convinced that through education much can be achieved. Therefore GeSI continues to educate their members on issues in the mining sector:

In 2004, Fauna and Flora International (FFI), supported by GeSI, published a report concerning the Coltan Mining Industry in the DRC. This was a comprehensive review of the issue and covered the tantalum market, uses and alternatives to tantalum capacitors. The report details the actions taken at that time by FFI and GeSI (reference below).

In late 2007, a joint GeSI and Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) workgroup was established to enhance understanding of social and environmental conditions at the mine level and determine how they could act to improve working conditions.

In 2008, the extractives workgroup commissioned a study into the sustainability of metals sourced by electronics companies: Social and Environmental Responsibility in Metals Supply to the Electronic Industry

The report acknowledged many challenges. GeSI supports the recommendations identified in the study, listed below:

  • The electronics industry should engage with appropriate existing social and environmental responsibility initiatives and stakeholders, as identified in this study, possibly in partnership with other end-use sectors, to both strengthen efforts and reduce proliferation of overlapping initiatives.
  • The electronics industry should continue to emphasize activities in management of end-of-life electronic products, including efforts to enhance materials efficiency after product use, and attention to recycling of metals.
  • Individual electronics companies need to further characterize specific metal content and use in electronic products. This supports the tracking of metals used in electronics, helps in tracing sources of materials and facilitates recycling.

In 2009, the extractives workgroup launched a project to improve visibility in the minerals supply chain, with particular focus on identifying sources of specific minerals and understanding how the minerals move through their lifecycles — from mine to electronics manufacturing..

In 2010 the Work Group launched their Tantalum smelter validation process. This process will identify smelters that can demonstrate through third part validation that they only source conflict free material. Over the course of the next few quarters the program will be expanded to include tin and possibly other metals. The group continues to engage companies from all levels of the tantalum mining and processing industry to drive toward credible a solution that promotes the responsible sourcing of tantalum.

GeSI member companies have also provided funding to help establish an in-region sourcing program that will allow the on-going sourcing of legitimate material from the DRC. This is critical in allowing the tens of thousand of artisanal miners that count on mining for their lively to not be negatively impacted.

GeSI will continue to champion more responsible metal sourcing by engaging our industry suppliers and by participating in collaborative efforts with other stakeholders including mining companies, non-government organizations, labor organizations involved in mining, other industrial sectors that purchase and use metals, the governments and multi-government organizations with jurisdiction over these issues and the end users.

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   Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)
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