Most of the world’s leading electronic companies and electronic vehicle developers are struggling to prevent conflict minerals, and minerals sourced through extensive child labour, from entering their supply chains.
This comes from a new report, “Time to Recharge” from Amnesty International, which studied the supply chains of electronics and car companies, and the results have revealed that although work is being done, too many companies are suffering from supply chain “blind spots.”
Two years ago, Amnesty International revealed in an exclusive investigation that batteries used by companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Renault could be linked to child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This news prompted Apple to become the first company in the world to fully publish the names of all of its cobalt suppliers, a move which has firmly cemented the company’s position as the industry leader in responsible cobalt sourcing.
The DRC is responsible for more than half of the world’s cobalt supply, with 20% of that supply mined entirely by hand. Amnesty International can reveal a long history of conflict mining, child labour, and harsh mining conditions linked with the supply of cobalt.
Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Renault, Huawei are among the 29 companies that were surveyed in the report against key criteria, including the requirement that companies carry out what are known as “due diligence” checks on their supply chain and the requirement that they are transparent about the associated human rights risks. The organization gave each company a rating of “no action”, “minimum”, “moderate” or “adequate” for each criterion.
Apple and Samsung lead the way with “adequate action taken”, followed closely by the likes of Dell, HP and Tesla with “moderate action taken”.
Alarmingly for Amnesty International, Microsoft, Renault, Lenovo, Huawei are among a number of companies that fall under “no action taken”.
“When we approached these companies, we were alarmed to find out that many were failing to ask basic questions about where their cobalt comes from,” said Seema Joshi, Head of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
“Nearly two years on, some of the richest and most powerful companies in the world are still making excuses for not investigating their supply chains. Even those who are investigating are failing to disclose the human rights risks and abuses they find. If companies are in the dark about where their cobalt comes from, so are their customers.
“This is a crucial moment for change. As demand for rechargeable batteries grows, companies have a responsibility to prove that they are not profiting from the misery of miners working in terrible conditions in the DRC. The energy solutions of the future must not be built on human rights abuses.”