For over a decade, Triodos Investment Management has been supporting efforts to break the connection between the mining of so called ‘conflict minerals’ and the extremely violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its surrounding countries. Triodos has been engaging with companies in industries that use most of the minerals and have been discussing responsible sourcing and requiring a commitment from companies to avoid the use of conflict minerals.

Tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold are the best-known ‘conflict minerals.’ They are used in a wide range of products, from cars to cell phones, and are often sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Revenues from the mining of these minerals have been used to fuel an extremely violent conflict in the region. Many sites are still controlled by militant groups or factions of the Congolese army. These gangs are responsible for ongoing violence and serious human rights abuses, including both child and forced labour.

Companies can make a difference

A 2013 study by the Dutch Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) found that very few companies disclose their use of conflict minerals on a voluntary basis. From around two hundred European companies  assessed, only a few are affected by the U.S. legislation, and most do not report on conflict minerals at all. Concerned by this small number, we took the initiative to contact European companies that our funds invest in to learn more about their awareness of conflict minerals and their motivation to carry out supply chain due diligence.

Level playing field required

As responsible mineral sourcing was not sufficiently taken up by businesses on a voluntary basis, Triodos encourages a European regulatory requirement of comparable structure and strength to create a level playing field. In early 2014, the European Commission published a proposal for a framework of voluntary self-certification with a focus on the smelters, and no obligations for the users of conflict minerals

A strong plea for stricter rules

On October 2014, together with a group of responsible investors and organisations, Triodos Investment Management published a joint investor statement to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council, calling upon the EU policy makers to ensure more compatibility between the proposed EU conflict minerals regulation and the Dodd-Frank Act. The statement was initiated by a working group composed of Triodos Investment Management, Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Eurosif, Responsible Sourcing Network, Trillium Asset Management and US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment and has been signed by other organisations. The letter was well-timed to become part of the debate in the European Parliament and in the Dutch Parliament.

On May 20th, The European Parliament voted on the proposal for European conflict minerals regulation. With its vote for mandatory supply chain due diligence on conflict minerals for importers, smelters and user companies, the European Parliament overturned the European Commission’s proposal for a voluntary system of self-certification for European smelters only. The European Parliament clearly voted for mandatory conflict mineral due diligence for all Union importers that source minerals in conflict areas, including companies using those minerals. With its vote the European Parliament responded to the investor statements that Triodos Investment Management jointly initiated.

The rights of all images of the article belong to Fairphone , a Dutch label that makes conflict free mobile phones.

Note: The issues explored in this article are relevant for sustainable investments on the stock market. Triodos Bank believes that our socially responsible investments are a powerful means of promoting our values and working for greater sustainability, while enabling us to offer a complete range of attractive investment options to customers who choose to invest on the stock market.