HP requires its suppliers to conduct their worldwide operations in a manner that respects labor and human rights, including sourcing minerals that do not directly or indirectly finance armed groups. (See the HP Supplier Code of Conduct .) We have, therefore, been deeply concerned by human rights violations related to the trade in minerals from conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The "conflict minerals" of concern are those used to produce tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold. Global supplies of these metals come from many sources, including mines in the DRC, which are estimated to provide approximately 18% of global tantalum production, 4% of tin, 3% of tungsten, and 2% of gold.1 Some of the mines in the DRC are controlled by militias responsible for atrocities that have been committed in that country's decades-long civil war. The background of the Congolese conflict is complicated and its resolution requires action on multiple fronts—but it's clear that promoting legitimate trade in minerals in the region can help.
Why HP is involved
Tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold are used to varying degrees in components commonly found in electronic products,2 although all are used extensively by other industries as well. Perhaps the most significant is tantalum, as more than half of its consumption relates to capacitors for electrical equipment. Tin is also used extensively, primarily in solder (which represents about a third of total tin use across all industries).
The minerals supply chain is long, complex, and involves several layers: from mining, through in-country traders and exporters, to smelters, refiners/metal exchanges/alloy producers, and finally to component and other manufacturers (see graphic). The smelter is a critical control point, because it is the stage where minerals from many sources are processed to produce a refined metal.
Illustration of global tin supply chain*
- * The supply chain varies significantly for each of the minerals/metals discussed in this section. This graphic is designed to illustrate the complexity of the tin supply chain and the relative number of the types of organizations involved, but not to provide precise information. Approximately 20% of the world's production of tin comes from recycled and scrap sources. This is not represented in this graphic.
The vast majority of refined metals used in HP products are sourced by companies within our multi-tier supply chain, typically several stages removed from HP. We are setting clear expectations with our suppliers regarding DRC conflict-free mineral sourcing, as described in our Supply Chain Social and Environmental Responsibility Policy.
Our approach to establishing validated DRC conflict-free sources of these metals has four components:
- Tracing the metal to the source
- Developing a conflict-free smelter validation program
- Establishing an in-region mineral certification system
- Influencing policy and legislation
Tracing the metal to the source
HP was instrumental in establishing the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) -Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) Extractives Work Group in 2007 and has helped to develop the common industry supplier survey tool supplier survey tool as a part of a sub-team of the work group. HP and the industry are using the tool to obtain the names of smelters used and information about how this requirement is communicated to sub-tier suppliers. We have made progress in identifying smelters in our supply chain and are working to pinpoint the mines that supply each smelter.
Developing a conflict-free smelter validation program
Through the EICC-GeSI Extractives Work Group, we have helped to develop stakeholder-approved audit protocols for smelters, and have visited smelters to gain a better understanding of their operations. HP was one of four companies on the Extractives Work Group Executive Audit Review Committee charged with reviewing audit results. Through March 2011, the audit team has audited 14 facilities for tantalum and is currently facilitating an external review of the tin audit protocol. (See www.eicc.info/extractives.htm .) As DRC conflict-free smelters are validated through this program, HP plans to direct our suppliers to use these smelters.
Establishing an in-region mineral certification system
Conflict-free smelters require access to DRC conflict-free minerals. HP has provided leadership in three distinct efforts to advance responsible sourcing of minerals from the DRC region.
- Contributing financial and in-kind support to ITRI, formerly the International Tin Research Institute, and the Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi), aimed at developing a system to trace minerals between the mine and smelter.
- Participating in the EICC-GeSI In-Region Sourcing panel which engages government, NGOs, and industry to advance due-diligence, transparency, and certification initiatives in the DRC. In 2010, this body communicated the urgent need for an in-region mineral certification system to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
- Developing a concept paper for a public-private partnership convening relevant stakeholders to advance a credible, market-driven, locally and internationally supported mineral development program in the African Great Lakes region. The mineral development operation would respect human rights and adhere to environmental principles, operate legally, and benefit people and communities as a path to peaceful economic development.
Influencing Policy and Legislation
Progress on addressing the DRC conflict minerals issue also requires appropriate regulatory frameworks, and HP has been a leader in this area. We supported the objectives and passing of recent U.S. legislation, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (see sidebar). We also contributed to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, endorsed by the United Nations and ICGLR, and referenced by the SEC's proposed rule.
- 1 Gold usage from http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/gold/myb1-2008-gold.pdf , tin usage from http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/tin/myb1-2008-tin.pdf , tantalum usage from http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/niobium/mcs-2010-tanta.pdf , and tungsten usage from table 5 in http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/tungsten/myb1-2008-tungs.pdf .
- 2 HP has taken steps to research and better understand the locations and quantities of these metals used in our products. We estimate that the average HP 2 kg notebook contains approximately 0.6g of tantalum, 10g of tin, 0.00009g tungsten, and 0.3g of gold.