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AVX Visit to Mines Sites DRC Jul 2011

GLOBAL  – Illegal trade in natural resources is widely recognized as a reason for instability. In the past months, the illegal extraction and trade of minerals in the conflict-ridden eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has again hit the headlines.  

At Nokia, we want to ensure that all materials used in our products come from socially and environmentally responsible sources. To provide further clarification on our stance regarding the illegal trade in natural resources, we’ve now published a public policy to complement our existing strict supplier requirements and other guidelines. 

The paper includes a part specifically on conflict minerals, spelling our policy out loud and clear:  

  • We prohibit human rights abuses associated with the extraction, transport or trade of minerals.
  • We also prohibit any direct or indirect support to non-state armed groups or security forces that illegally control or tax mine sites, transport routes, trade points, or any upstream actors in the supply chain.
  • We have no tolerance with regard to corruption, money-laundering and bribery.
  • We require the parties in our supply chain to agree to follow the same principles.
Mike DRC Pictures

Digging deeper than the first tier

The reality is that problems often lie beyond the first tier of our suppliers.

In the case of conflict minerals, there are typically 4-8 supplier layers between Nokia and any mine, and therefore just focusing on our direct suppliers isn’t enough.  So, as well as demanding proper due diligence from our direct suppliers, we ask them to set policies and supplier requirements of their own and pass those on into the supply chain.

We also require our suppliers to map out their supply chains in order to achieve traceability at least to smelter level. Once mechanisms become available, suppliers will be required to ensure that purchased metals originate from smelters validated as being free of conflict minerals. Nokia reserves the right to request further evidence of the chain down to mine level when necessary. Traceability data must also be maintained and recorded for five years and provided to us upon request. 

The principles of the policy have been incorporated into our supplier requirements. Instead of merely handing them out, we believe it’s also vital to create awareness and build capacity within our supplier base through training and regular supplier meetings. In addition, we encourage our suppliers to support the industry efforts to enhance traceability and responsible practices in global mineral supply chains.

Mike DRC Pictures

Industry-wide standards needed

The illegal trade of minerals is an issue that cannot be solved alone by one company. Therefore, as well as mapping out supply chains, setting supplier requirements and fortifying our own due diligence practices, we’re also active participants in industry-wide initiatives as we explained in our last article on this topic.

Besides our work with industry peers in the GeSI (Global e-Sustainability Initiative)–EICC (Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition) Extractives Work Group and the OECD pilot for testing due diligence guidelines for responsible supply chain management, we have now joined the US State Department’s Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade. The alliance between industry, governmental agencies and civil society was formed to support the development of supply chain solutions for sourcing conflict-free minerals from the DRC and the Great Lakes Region. The aim is to support legitimate trade and avoid an embargo on Central Africa. 

Metal traceability is an issue that concerns the entire electronics industry, and any industry potentially using minerals deriving from conflict areas. However, tracing the minerals used in electronic goods or any other products is complicated and the process has been slow. This is because currently, there are no certificates available, supply chains are long and complex, and minerals are smelted together before being used for components. Furthermore, there are also some reports of smuggling in the conflict area, complicating the tracing even more.

Both increased transparency in the supply chain and industry-wide standards are needed to solve the problem. We’re actively working to help achieve that day by day.