Apple released its 2012 Sustainability Report last Friday, which showed the company is doing some things very well in terms of conflict minerals.
Apple fully traced its supply chains for four conflict minerals—tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold—which is steps beyond what other companies have done. They found 175 smelters in their supply chain, about 50 more than last year. Identifying smelters is important because it makes it much easier to track conflict minerals. Fully identifying the number of smelters that Apple uses is a tremendous step and should be applauded, as many companies say this level of tracing is too difficult to accomplish. Furthermore, Apple is working to train smelters to become knowledgeable about conflict minerals.
However, there is nothing in the report showing steps to create a certification system to establish which minerals are conflict-free, or to develop conflict-free mines in the Congo. The Congo is a region that needs attention in terms of conflict minerals, and there is still a lot of work to be done.
As an industry leader, Apple could help lead this work, as De Beers did for conflict diamonds through the development of the Kimberley Process certification scheme 10 years ago. Apple could work with suppliers to develop conflict-free supply chains like Motorola's "Solutions for Hope" (subsequently joined by HP and Intel), and help communities in Congo.
The Apple report can be read here in full.
– Sasha Lezhnev blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.
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