Everyone has a cell phone these days, but have you thought about what goes into making it and where the parts come from?
Making products such as cell phones involves countless people, including workers around the world who mine and process the raw materials. Take tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold (known as 3TG), for example. These minerals are used in myriad products, including consumer electronics, and are mined from deposits found across the globe, with reserves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and adjoining countries.
Occasionally, these minerals are illegally sourced and traded by armed groups who are responsible for human rights violations. As such, these minerals are known as “conflict minerals.”
Enter Hamlin Metzger, Director of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at Best Buy. It’s his job to help Best Buy be a responsible manufacturer of our private label products. It begins by knowing the ins and outs of our supply chain, from mine to manufacturer to shelf, and ensuring the materials used in our products are responsibly sourced. Smelters — where 3TG ore is processed to remove impurities — are a critical link in the chain. While there are tens of thousands of mines in the world and even more manufacturers, there are just a few hundred smelters. If we can ensure the smelters are sourcing from legitimate mines, then we know our products are “conflict free.”
For Best Buy, we work with industry peers to put pressure on the smelters to be audited to ensure responsible sourcing. That’s why we are a member of the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI), where we partner with more than 30 companies, from some of our branded vendors to those in other industries.
Hamlin recently traveled with members of CFSI to visit smelters in China. He met with several smelters and discussed the expectations of indirect customers, the importance of conducting due diligence on the source of their raw materials, and how they can be certified as conflict-free through a CFSI audit. In just two years since we have been involved in this work, we’ve seen phenomenal progress, with a significant increase in the percentage of smelters in our private label supply chain certified as conflict-free. However, we still have a lot of work to do, and it will take the entire industry working together to get the remaining smelters to go through an audit and ensure they have responsible sourcing practices.
It’s meaningful work for our investors, our employees, our communities and our customers.