Materials & Assembly

Looking for Conflict-Free Smelters

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Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Re: Environmentally sound and smart business
Rob Spiegel   11/15/2011 2:46:49 PM
You're right, Beth. The whole concept of conflict-free smelters is to give OEMs and their suppliers an avenue that avoids the difficult task of vetting smelters to determine whether thier products come from the bad guys. If you can make sure you limit your materials to those that come from smelters that take an active role in avoiding conflict materials, it relieves the task of vetting every supplier.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Re: Environmentally sound and smart business
Ann R. Thryft   11/15/2011 2:34:56 PM
The SEC angle reminds me of a seminar I attended last month given by my financial advisor about socially responsible investing (SRI). I was surprised to learn how many companies adhere to various compliance standards for SRI, and how many can be invested in via mutual funds. 

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Resource extraction
Dave Palmer   11/11/2011 6:44:46 PM
Unfortunately, all too often, the extraction of raw materials has been accompanied by human rights abuses and environmental destruction.  This has been true around the world, not only in the eastern Congo, although the eastern Congo may be one of the most horriffic examples.

For many countries, instead of being a blessing, having abundant natural resources has been a curse.  Other countries (and local elites) have reaped the benefits, while the local population pays the price.  Just as an example, as a result of acid mine drainage from gold mining, the river in my wife's town in El Salvador has a pH of around 2, which makes it about as acidic as table vinegar.  Many people in the town are suffering from kidney failure and other diseases.  The U.S. company which owned the mine has not paid a cent to clean up their mess, and in fact recently tried to sue the government of El Salvador for $100 million dollars in compensation for having revoked their license.

A lot of the discussion about sustainability and life cycle analysis has focused on end-of-life issues, but the very beginning of a product's life - the extraction of the raw materials - is seldom talked about.  In fact, resource extraction is often where the highest environmental and social costs are.  Hopefully, these initiatives will help to get people to start looking at this side of the product life cycle.

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Environmentally sound and smart business
Beth Stackpole   11/11/2011 7:54:12 AM
Given the challenge that tracking and proving compliance presents to most manufacturers, it seems like turning to certified non-conflict-minerals smelters would be a sound decision, both from a business standpoint and for environmental good. The question is, though, how many of these certified smelters are there around the globe and are they equipped to scale with the demands of the various business sectors they might serve?

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