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What do you know about conflict minerals?

A share of the world’s metals, such as tin and gold, can be traced back to conflict areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of these metals are used to manufacture common electrical products, including those found in telecom. Below, we take a look at how companies can ensure responsible sourcing across their supply chains.

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Catalina Ion 

Responsible Sourcing Program Manager

Conflict minerals, as defined by US legislation, currently include the metals tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold, which are the derivatives of the minerals cassiterite, columbite-tantalite and wolframite, respectively.

Today, a small share of all tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold metals originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are sometimes controlled by armed groups to finance the ongoing conflict in the DRC and adjoining countries, both indirectly and directly. Some of these minerals end up in the supply chain of products including those in the electronics industry.

The four metals, tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are always defined as conflict minerals irrespective of their origin or if the mining has financed any armed groups or not.

Common uses in electronics


Why is a supply chain assessment necessary?

As with all electronic products, which contain many different metals (often in very low concentrations), all four conflict minerals are commonly used in the manufacturing process of telecom parts and components. Albeit, all four metals are used in small amounts and in low concentrations.

As part of our commitment to responsible sourcing, human rights and sustainability, it is our goal that any tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold metals which feature in our products should never, directly or indirectly, finance or benefit armed groups in the DRC or adjoining countries.

This is also regulated, in part, through the Dodd-Frank Act. This legislation, introduced in the U.S. in 2010, requires all publicly traded companies to ensure a responsible raw material supply chain. This includes the sourcing of conflict minerals, ensuring that such metals are not tied to the conflict in DRC. To adhere to this regulation, Ericsson is required to file annual disclosures as to the origin of our conflict minerals.

Downstream companies play a pivotal role in the supply chain

For downstream companies, the focus should be on the pinch point of the supply chain, which are the smelters and refiners. Risks must be identified and assessed. Downstream companies should, with help from their first-tier suppliers, identify smelters and refiners in the supply chain.

A way which we have achieved this is by aligning our activities with the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). Through this, we aim to improve the traceability of our supply chain. Through the Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP), enabling smelters to become certified as conflict-free. This means companies can source metals from smelters and refiners certified as conflict free.

As a downstream company, our approach to conflict mineral sourcing has culminated in the following key measures:

  • We will not ban material from the DRC but, if possible, will use traced material which does not contribute to the conflict in DRC and the surrounding region
  • We ensure that our suppliers are expected to use only smelters certified as conflict free, to provide a phase-out plan or, at the very least, plan to increase the number of certified smelters
  • Our suppliers are expected to have due diligence processes in place which will enable us to reasonably verify and disclose the origin of conflict minerals and the smelters used to process these minerals

Responsible sourcing of other raw materials

Of course, responsible sourcing goes far beyond just the origins of conflict minerals.

We also recognize that there are other geographies and raw materials that may pose potential human rights violations and environmental impact risks. For example, among other activities, we have also investigated the use of cobalt in the batteries used in our products. We also continue to question all of our suppliers about their due diligence.

At Ericsson, responsible sourcing of raw materials is a key part of our code of conduct, with regard to conflict minerals and indeed any other raw materials. Our business expects due diligence when it comes to the sourcing and extraction of raw materials.

It's important that the telecom industry actively engages with the responsible sourcing of conflict minerals and other raw materials. At Ericsson, it's just as important that our business takes the lead on such matters.

Find out more about how we work with responsible sourcing at Ericsson.

Read our statement on the sourcing of conflict minerals.

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