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Electronics Companies Set High Bar for Addressing Conflict Minerals

Technology companies set a high bar for addressing conflict minerals like tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold used in consumer electronics, according to a report from The Enough Project. They generally do more than jewelry companies that buy many of the same raw materials.

The recent report rated companies based on the steps they take to purchase these minerals – which are commonly abbreviated as 3TG – from responsible sources, which don't not use the proceeds to finance violence in the Congo and other countries. The companies with the highest ratings were Apple, Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and Intel.

The report took into account a company’s conflict mineral policies, disclosures of smelters and refineries, and whether they agree to audits into their supply chain. Other criteria are a company’s support for “artisanal mines” in the Congo as well as advocacy for legislation like Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The report focused on the consumer electronics and jewelry industries “because they have demonstrated the potential to be catalytic in the development of new policies and practices regarding responsible sourcing, and they are also particularly attuned to consumer pressure.” They are also among the biggest purchasers of 3TG minerals.

The Enough Project ranked companies on a scale of 0 to 120. The advocacy group also awarded extra credit in certain cases. (Data courtesy of The Enough Project. Chart drawn by Jim Miller, Electronic Design).

The report generally gave lower grades to jewelry companies, with the lowest marks handed out to Costco, Sears, Walmart, and Nieman Marcus. The jewelry retailers highest on the list are Signet and Tiffany. While the leaders are all titans of the technology industry, electronics companies like Samsung and Toshiba were also given dismal reviews.

The report urged companies with low scores to improve their due diligence on conflict minerals and probe their supply chains continuously the entire year, instead of annually for regulatory purposes. It said that this should be done in spite of the possibility that the SEC will repeal the mandate for conflict mineral reporting in Dodd-Frank.

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