Samsung Electronics Supports a Responsible Approach to Mineral Sourcing

on April 22, 2016
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Tin is not amongst the first metals that come to mind. However sadly, tin has historically been a strategic element in conflicts, from Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and neighboring countries. Tin is therefore considered as a “conflict mineral”, similar to gold, tungsten and tantalum.


Tin is extracted from an ore named cassiterite. In ancient history it even served as a denomination for the mythical “Cassiterides”, literally the “Tin Islands” situated somewhere off the coast of Spain, Britany (France) and Cornwall (United-Kingdom). Nowadays, the major global tin producers are China, Indonesia and Malaysia. The “Tin Islands” do exist some could argue: Indonesia produces approximately one-third of the global tin supply of which the most part is extracted from the Bangka-Belitung islands.


Beyond the disasters of armed conflicts in the DRC and neighboring countries, small-scale artisanal tin mining in Indonesia is one of the most prominent source of environmental and social damage. Thousands of artisanal miners, seeking to provide for their families, extract tin in unsafe conditions to sell it to smelters, amidst widespread corruption. Consumers, customers, NGOs and companies alike are concerned about these issues. Friends of the Earth (FoE), a global NGO, asserts that tin mining on Indonesia’s Bangka Island is causing significant damage to the local environment, including the marine ecosystem such as coral islands, as well as the area’s industries, including agriculture and fishing. As such, FoE has called on global companies to join forces to address the situation.


Within the electronics industry, tin is mainly used for solders having in mind that electronics is broader than the ICT industry, more sectors need to address these issues. Indeed, tin due to its properties, is widely used across the electronics, automobile, and packing industries. Though Samsung Electronics does not directly source tin from Indonesia it can be found in our devices, nevertheless and similar to other industry players, Samsung decided to support a responsible approach to mineral sourcing.


Therefore, Samsung did not go the easy road, simply making sure our suppliers buy minerals from outside Indonesia and conflicts affected areas. This would have shielded the company from criticism but would have caused increased damage to the regions and isolate even more the local communities. In 2013, Samsung Electronics joined the Indonesian Tin Working Group (TWG) composed of likeminded technology companies, the tin industry and civil society; coordinated by the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). With its renewed support, Samsung is working closely with IDH, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and various other stakeholders, including the local Indonesian government, smelters, companies, and NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, to find a reasonable solution to these concerns. At the end of 2015, Samsung decided to support the TWG Incentives Guide and is looking at pilot projects which could be launched in 2016.


The same principle applies to the DRC and neighboring countries. Samsung indeed strongly supports the ban on conflict minerals, yet we decided instead of choosing to end the relationship with the non-compliant suppliers, to rather work with them. Consequently, Samsung is seeking ways to eliminate the use of conflict minerals in all of its products, including tin. Internally, Samsung has developed its own compliance system: the “Internal Trade Compliance System” (TCS). With this Samsung monitors its own use and origin of conflict minerals. Collectively, Samsung participates in the EICC’s Conflict Free Sourcing Program (CFSP). Through the CFSP the electronics industry has developed an audit process to validate smelters’ and refiners’ sourcing practices – CFSP compliant smelters and refiners receive a “conflict free” designation. Focusing on this ‘pinch point’ in the supply chain is important, as beyond this point it becomes technically impossible to identify the origin of minerals or metals.


Samsung Electronics also encourages all its suppliers to participate in the CFSP. Our supplier Code of Conduct (CoC) released online in September 2015 aims to create ethical and responsible supply chain at all levels by encourages our suppliers to go beyond the management of ethical compliance at their own facilities to reach their own suppliers. Since 2011, we have organized annual training and briefing sessions for suppliers to stress the importance of the ban on conflict minerals and conducted audit investigations. In 2015 we conducted 480 on-site inspections of our suppliers. We will continue to work closely with suppliers to ensure conflict minerals are not used.


In essence acting responsibly is not about pointing fingers but calls for the inclusion of multiple sectors in improving the situation for workers in conflict zones, for Indonesian workers and the environment. Working towards collective solutions, staying engaged is the approach we have chosen.



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