Tag Archives: child labor

Media Reports, Public Pressure Mounting on Cobalt as a Conflict Mineral

The Washington Post published results of their investigation into cobalt sourcing, specifically for industrial battery manufacturing.  Regardless of whether you agree with the findings or not, it is valuable reading as it continues to demonstrate the expansion of supply chain responsibility.

We increasingly refer to this as You Are What Your Suppliers Do, so you need to have full confidence in your supplier due diligence and audits.  And if you haven’t done so already, read what Harvard Business School published on the pragmatic aspects of getting meaningful and useful CSR/supplier audits.

It is worth pointing out, however, that the issues related to cobalt mining that WaPo reports – however horrific – are different from the criteria under Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act to be considered a “conflict mineral.”  The law specifically limits the expansion of the term to “any other mineral or its derivatives determined by the Secretary of State to be financing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo or an adjoining country.”  Child labor not directly associated with financing such conflict and environmental degradation from uncontrolled mining are outside the definition.

While internal conflict minerals due diligence processes can generally be easily adapted to address cobalt (beyond funding conflict), doing so is voluntary or in response to customer requirements only.

Elm, Conflict Minerals Cited in Report to US Department of Labor on Ethical, Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chain Systems

A significant report was published today by the Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer at Tulane University for the US Department of Labor.  The report, titled Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, March 31, 2011, reviews the progress made under the industry’s voluntary International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) created in 2002 to identify, monitor and prevent child labor in the cocoa farms of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

The study provides the following conclusions on the effectiveness and validity of the cocoa industry’s self regulation for supply chain traceability:

… we conclude that Industry’s “certification” model does not yet conform with ISO 65 standards of certification. Industry has only partly established bodies with the appropriate mandate, and has not finalized the required processes to develop a “credible” certification system.

… These mixed results seen over the past decade of Industry self-regulation leave unanswered the question of “is Industry able to self-regulate in the absence of enforceable legal repercussions.”

The authors looked to potential analogs or solutions, discussing the US Conflict Minerals Law enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.  In doing so, the study included excerpts from Elm’s February 21, 2011 article on the Conflict Minerals Law published at MetalMiner.com, and continued:

… this type of regulation has the potential to tangibly address human rights concerns surrounding conflict minerals and invites the business community to become part of the solution. In light of the protracted human rights issues that also persist in the cocoa sectors of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, this type of approach may be considered appropriate for the cocoa/chocolate industry as well.

The study’s conclusions and recommendations stated:

… mandated disclosure [under the US Conflict Minerals Law], if applied to the cocoa industry, would have the potential to encourage more due diligence and transparent sourcing on the part of companies operating in the cocoa market … in light of the mixed results seen with industry self- regulation over the past decade a legal framework may be more effective in holding companies accountable to enforce the guidelines. [emphasis in original]