In a report released Jan. 19, Amnesty International and African Resources Watch made a connection between major electronics companies and forced child labor in African mines. The report accuses Apple and other electronics makers of failing to check that children aren't involved in mining cobalt, a key mineral used in the lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones and laptops, and also in hybrid cars. Read about it here and here.
The abusive practices of the cobalt industry are similar to those of conflict minerals – practices that Praxis Mutual Funds® has tried to end through dialogues with companies that use conflict minerals for manufacturing.
Conflict minerals include tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they fuel illicit trade, civil war and forced labor – including child labor. Much like cobalt, these minerals are critical for the manufacture of many common electronics products that we use every day.
From 2011 to 2015, Praxis addressed conflict minerals with major cellular service providers, including Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Part of the dialogue between Praxis and these cell providers covered how passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 – specifically, section 1502 on conflict minerals – can help companies find new ways to do business while also caring for our global neighbors.
This legislation requires companies to trace and disclose their possible exposure to conflict minerals. Discussions with the companies also included parameters for how to manufacture conflict-free phones, so that the minerals in phone components could be traceable to their mines of origin.
The report on cobalt and forced labor underscores the risks that companies face if they don’t practice good stewardship and oversight of their supply chains.