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New Approaches, Tools for Ethical Sourcing of Conflict Minerals

Cobalt. | Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

A multi-industry initiative has introduced new protocols and tools for the responsible sourcing of tin, tungsten, tantalum, gold, and cobalt, as well as social, environmental and governance impacts of the extraction and processing of raw materials in international supply chains.

The Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), formerly the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI), is a coalition of over 360 member companies aiming to improve the security and human rights conditions in their mineral supply chains. The coalition administers one of the most utilized third-party audits for the responsible sourcing of minerals from conflict and high-risk areas, the Responsible Minerals Assurance Process.

RMI has improved its audit protocols for tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold (3TG) – changes that will come into effect beginning June 1, 2018. The revised standards are more closely aligned with other internationally recognized frameworks, including the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (OECD Guidance), the public reporting requirements for audited companies with the OECD Guidance, and the ISO 19011:2011 Guidelines for auditing management systems. They also include a global approach to due diligence, beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and nine adjoining countries. While the revised RMI standards will go into effect in June, companies can voluntarily undergo audits using the new standards now.

Beyond its work on 3TG, RMI launched a six-month pilot of its Cobalt Reporting Template (CRT) on March 1st. The template is intended to identify cobalt refiners in companies’ supply chains and collect due diligence information. The pilot version of the CRT and list of cobalt refiners will be made available until August 31, 2018. After this pilot phase, refinements and continuation of the tool will be assessed.

The organization is also supporting companies’ efforts to identify and prioritize salient social, environmental and governance impacts of extraction and processing of raw materials. One of its new resources for this is the Risk Readiness Assessment (RRA) Platform, a self-assessment tool for companies along the value chain to evaluate and communicate their risk management practices across 31 issue areas. Over 200 assessments across 3TG and cobalt supply chains have been completed and shared on the RRA Platform to date, with more than 60 downstream and 160 upstream companies active on the platform. Over the next month, in coordination with DRIVE Sustainability, RMI expects to publish material risk profiles for 17 raw materials commonly used in automotive and electronic products as well as a risk matrix covering 45 raw materials.

“Expectations on companies to demonstrate due diligence and responsible sourcing are increasing worldwide,” said Leah Butler, Vice President, Responsible Business Alliance (RBA). “These new tools from the RMI help create conditions for companies with global supply chains to conduct due diligence and meet those growing demands.”


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