Tech firms remove conflict minerals from supply chains
A number of leading electronic firms including Intel, HP, Motorola Solutions and Apple have cleaned up their supply chains, sourcing ‘Conflict Minerals’ such as tin, tantalum and tungsten from ethical sources.
According to rankings by Enough: the project to end genocide and crimes against humanity, a large number of top companies have made great progress, establishing conflict minerals programs that make sure that funds for conflict minerals do not reach armed groups in Congo.
The minerals tin, tantalum and tungsten are used in the manufacturing of electronic equipment, as components of the vibrating facility in mobile phones, computer circuit boards and capacitors. The funds used to purchase these materials, which are found predominantly in Congo and its surrounding countries, is considered to have a hand in the war in Congo, which has claimed 5.4 million lives.
The move by companies to become more ethical is attributed to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Dodd-Frank financial reform law, of which a small section will legally require manufacturers to disclose whether they buy conflict metals. The law is expected to be voted on today, where the SEC is expected to adopt the ruling.
The annual rankings by Enough aim to provide consumers with information about which suppliers are doing the best job of sourcing their materials ethically. The report found that Intel, HP and Motorola Solutions were ranked the highest, in addition to a special mention for Apple, which named an industry leader following its decision to identify the number of it’s smelets, in addition to requiring it’s suppliers to use on certified conflict-free smelters.
Companies who also ranked well include SanDisk, Phillips, Sony, Panasonic, RIM and AMD, who trace back into their supply chains and joining a smelter audit program. Companies like Nintendo, however have made no known effort to audit its supply chain.
“HP and Intel have gone above and beyond the call of duty on conflict minerals,” said Sasha Lezhnev, co-author of the report and Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst. “It is now time to level the playing field for all companies, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has a key role to play in its upcoming vote on the rules for the conflict minerals law on August 22. The SEC should ensure that retailers and all firms that use the minerals are covered by the rules and that there is not a long phase-in period. Otherwise, the Intels and HPs will be left unfairly holding the bag for a problem that belongs to thousands of companies that have been turning a blind eye to this problem for years.”
EU and US agree end to Airbus-Boeing supply chain tariffs
The EU and US have agreed to resolve a 17-year dispute over aircraft subsidies, suspending tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of goods that have plagued procurement leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.
Under an agreement reached by European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday, the tariffs will be halted for a period of at least five years.
It will bring an end to punitive and disruptive levies on supply chains that have little to do with the argument, which became embroiled in the trade battle. Businesses on both sides of the dispute have been hit with more than $3.3bn in duties since they were first imposed by the US in October 2019, according the EC.
The US imposed charges on goods upto $7.5bn in response to a World Trade Organisation ruling that judged the EU’s support of Airbus, its biggest aircraft manufacturer, unlawful. A year later in November 2020, the EU hit back. The WTO found the US had violated trade rules in its favourable treatment of Boeing, and was hit with EU duties worth $4bn.
In all the tariffs affected $11.5bn worth of goods, including French cheese, Scotch whisky, aircraft and machinery in Europe, and sugarcane products, handbags and tobacco in America. Procurement leaders on both sides of the fence were forced to wrestle with tariffs of 15% on aircraft and components, and 25% on non-aircraft related products.
Boeing-Airbus dispute by the numbers
- The dispute began in 2004
- Tariffs suspended for 5 years
- $11.5bn worth of goods affected by tariffs
- $3.3bn in duties paid by businesses to date
- 15% levy on aircraft and 25% on non-aircraft goods suspended
Both sides welcome end to tariffs
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen branded the truce a “major step” in ending what is the longest running dispute in WTO history. It began in 2004.
“I am happy to see that after intensive work between the European Commission and the US administration, our transatlantic partnership is on its way to reaching cruising speed. This shows the new spirit of cooperation between the EU and the US and that we can solve the other issues to our mutual benefit,” she added.
Both aircraft manufacturers have welcomed the news. Airbus said in a statement that it will hopefully bring to an end the “lose-lose tariffs” that are affecting industries already facing “many challenges”. Boeing added that it will “fully support the U.S. Government’s efforts to ensure that the principles in this understanding are respected”.
The US aerospace firm added: "The understanding reached today commits the EU to addressing launch aid, and leaves in place the necessary rules to ensure that the EU and United States live up to that commitment, without requiring further WTO action."
This week’s decision expands upon a short-term tariff truce announced in March this year. The EC says it will work closely with the US to try and further resolve the dispute, establishing a Working Group on Large Civil Aircraft led by each side’s trade minister.
Airbus last month signalled to suppliers that post-pandemic recovery was on the horizon, telling them to scale up to meet a return to pre-COVID manufacturing levels. “The aviation sector is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury, adding that suppliers should prepare for a period of intensive production “when market conditions call for it.”