Conflict minerals, closer than you think

Posted on January 3, 2012


Conflict minerals — tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — are at the heart of warfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo and nearby countries. Violent groups are fighting to control profits, with tragic and deadly results.

“The problem may seem far away, but conflict minerals are closer than you think,” said Tellabs’ lead program manager of environmental affairs, Jesse Kevan, “They are essential to most electronic products, including smartphones, TVs and computers. They’re in every Tellabs product, too.”

In his blog post, Conflict minerals … where do we start?, Kevan shares some of the challenges we face at Tellabs, as we work with our supply chain to use conflict-free materials for our products.

Tellabs’ efforts, along with many other public companies, are being spurred on by recent U.S. legislation. New reporting requirements from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will hold companies accountable for materials in their supply chains.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Can Annual Reports Save Lives?, Jason Zweig  highlights the issue for investors. “Considering that interventions by other means have so often failed, financial disclosures—whether they work or not—may become the next weapon for combating crimes against humanity,” said Zweig.

The conflict is immense and complex. It will not be solved by a single approach, company, industry, nonprofit, government or consumer group.

Thankfully, there are collaborative efforts — including industry initiatives by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI) — driving towards a solution.

Nonprofits working on the conflict minerals issue include:

If you know of other nonprofits on the front lines of this issue, please add them in the comments.