Most activities of global businesses will inevitably have an impact on human rights, particularly in regions that are war-ravaged or where standards of governance are poor. Democratic governments, activists, and leaders of companies all want to see business having a positive effect, but this cannot be achieved without a sustained and deliberate effort. A proactive response is needed.
Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act aims to stop the illegal trade in conflict minerals tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold, and it certainly is a proactive piece of legislation. Some commentators point to shortcomings, saying the legislation is forcing miners out of work and their families into poverty; that impoverished people have no choice but to join militias to survive. Others say the alternative – allowing a horrific situation to prevail – is unacceptable.
Dodd-Frank, however, is not the only initiative seeking to enlist businesses in the struggle to end the multiple abuses associated with conflict minerals. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains, and the World Gold Council has published the Conflict-Free Gold Standard, which aims to eradicate misuse of gold while at the same time promoting its role in social and economic development.
At Kemet, which is arguably the world's largest consumer of capacitor-grade tantalum powder, we think a lot about the responsible sourcing of tantalum ore. Tantalum is vital to our business, and we are determined to do everything we can to ensure the materials we use are sourced ethically. Our actions have demonstrated that it is possible to comply with the Dodd-Frank law while also helping to improve conditions for miners, their families, and local communities. We have become closely linked with the operation of a fully audited, 100% conflict-free mine in Kisengo, working with the support of knowledgeable local groups. We are also supporting actively the local community: we helped finance a school, hospital, roads, water supply, as well as street lighting. This has enabled us to satisfy the Dodd-Frank legislation while also boosting prosperity from mining.
One thing is certain: Dodd-Frank has provided both an example and a catalyst for high-level action on this very important issue. The European Union will soon bring forward its own legislation to clamp down on the theft of Africa's mineral resources to fund wars and the associated human rights abuses. With our approach to mining in Kisengo, we are working to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the new laws. We are committed to conflict free, not simply to ensure legal compliance, but because we believe in the vision.
How are you and your suppliers working with conflict mineral legislation in new in creative ways? Let us know in the comments section below.