Apple’s Big Supply Chain Transparency Milestone

Apr 1, 2016

A Bloomberg Technology article explores Apple’s announcement on Wednesday that all 242 of its suppliers of tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold are now subject to third-party audits to determine any links to armed groups in the DRC. While many companies have sought to avoid any materials from DRC and the surrounding countries, Apple has worked with its suppliers (in some cases, “cajoling, persuading, and even embarrasing [them] by publishing their names”) to support conflict-free producers in the region. “We could have very easily chosen a path of re-routing our supply and declared ourselves conflict-free long ago, but that would have done nothing to help the people on the ground,” Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said. “We chose to engage with as many smelters as possible because the only way to have an impact here is to reach critical mass.”

The Enough Project also applauded this achievement. “Apple’s new supplier report is a model for how companies should be addressing conflict minerals,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy. “Apple’s tough love with its suppliers is critical to solving the problem of deadly conflict minerals — it offered assistance to suppliers but then took the difficult step of cutting out those who were unwilling to undergo an audit. Firm but fair follow-through by tech and other companies with their suppliers is a key step that’s needed to cut off global markets for conflict minerals.”

Apple and the Enough Projects are both members of the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, a coalition of 51 member organizations from industry, civil society, and government, for which RESOLVE serves as Secretariat. The PPA provides funding and coordination support to organizations working within the region to develop verifiable conflict-free supply chains align due diligence programs and practice, encourage responsible sourcing from the region, promote transparency, and bolster in-region civil society and government capacity.

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