Now the White House is planning to suspend the rule in the Dodd-Frank Act that requires companies to disclose whether they use conflict minerals in their products or manufacturing. This action could financially benefit tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft, but at the cost of human lives.
Conflict minerals include any that have been mined in or near the Democratic Republic of Congo that are contributing financially to conflicts in the region. They include gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten, all of which are common in electronics — meaning many hardware manufactures have been affected by this rule since it was put into place in 2012.
Even though there is a financial cost to compliance, including supply chain audits, some tech companies are happy to comply with the rule and plan to continue to do so even if it is rolled back. Apple has explained how its efforts to comply with the rule have had a positive impact:
As of December 31, 2015, after five years of devoted effort, 100% of the identified smelters and refiners in Apple’s supply chain for current products were participating in an independent third party conflict minerals audit… Apple believes that this effort has driven awareness and improved sourcing practices across a wide base of smelters and refiners that supply the industry well beyond Apple.
While it takes work to identify responsible sources of minerals, when large corporations such as Apple influence the region and create a demand for ethically mined minerals, it is easier for smaller companies to comply.
Financial impact aside, the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other global human rights organizations say that it is crucial to keep the rule if we want to curb human rights abuses, and many companies still need to go even further on their journey towards ethical mineral sourcing.
It’s time for tech companies to practice standing up against the Trump administration, and publicly voice their opposition to his plans to repeal Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act.