The last post in a series of a guest viewpoint on conflict minerals compliance from Brad Brooks-Rubin, Of Counsel at Holland & Hart LLP.
Manufacturers must explore and understand their options for staying and remaining engaged in the DRC region, even if it impacts their initial SEC reporting. How can companies do this? I outlined a few ways in the previous post; but here are a few more ideas:
3. For those in industries beyond electronics and a few others, encourage trade associations to be more active and to provide joint platforms for sharing information – and costs.
Compliance with Section 1502 (and the possible EU regulations) is certainly complex and potentially quite costly. The OECD Due Diligence Guidance, highlighted by the SEC in its regulations, encourages cooperation across industries to share compliance experiences and information about what is happening on the ground.
The electronics, automotive, aerospace, and retail industries, among others, have established vibrant working groups (and in recent months launched the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative).
As a result, many companies in these industries have advanced their compliance approaches and in-region engagement. If your industry has not established such a group, encourage the trade associations to do so.
4. Push back when you are told to ensure that your supply chain is “Congo-Free.”
As seen above, there is considerable work underway to develop in-region and global conflict-free sourcing systems. These are at the core of the positives that have emerged from, or been accelerated by, section 1502. If you hear that the only way to comply with section 1502 is to be “Congo-Free,” now you know better and can raise alternative options.
5. Engage the advocates directly about what you are doing and why.
As I recently explained, companies that take the above steps do face the prospect of having to report that some products are “Not DRC Conflict Free.” But companies that take the above steps and also utilize broader due diligence systems, such as the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict Affected and High Risk Areas overall, or systems like the World Gold Council Conflict-Free Gold Standard for particular minerals, may be in a more advantageous position when NGOs and the media begin to analyze the reports provided to the SEC because of their efforts to contribute to the long-term goal.
Consumers want to know what companies are doing to address the conflict in eastern DRC. Direct, transparent engagement with advocacy groups helps clarify this message and conveys to consumers what your company is doing, why, and what challenges you are facing.
In the end, companies do face difficult choices in the months ahead. But those who choose to stay, and be part of the solution, should find the investment one worth making.
If you’re a manufacturer needing to comply, tell us what you think – leave a comment below!
Editors’ note: The viewpoints, perspectives and/or opinions of guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of MetalMiner, its sponsors, clients or partners. Contact the author directly here.