Social and ecological aspects

Responsibility along the supply chain

Men working in ASM in Kono (Westafrica)

Minimising the risks of trading with conflict minerals on a global level

Sustainable patterns of consumption and production are laid down in 2030 Agenda of the United Nations - and against the background of rising demand for extractives, they are now pivotal, especially where mining is concerned. Responsible companies and clear legal foundations are required to ensure that social and ecological standards can be applied and enforced in extractive countries. However, this is still far from reality, especially in conflict regions, where there are high risks of human rights violations, conflict financing and environmental damage.

The EU introduced the Conflict Minerals Regulation to examine the trade with the conflict-prone raw materials tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold more intensively. From 2021, European companies will have to comply with mandatory due diligence requirements when importing these minerals into the EU. The regulation flanks already existing international standards and obligations, for instance, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. Germany also reaffirmed the need for responsible supply chains in its National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights.


Multi-sectoral cooperation for the responsible procurement of raw materials

Through multi-stakeholder initiatives, standards for specific raw material supply and value chains can be introduced and supported in a targeted manner. For example, the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM), being a development policy-accompanying measure, supplements the legal regulation on the import of conflict minerals into the EU. The partnership aims to improve the living conditions of small-scale miners and communities affected by mining in conflict and high-risk areas. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is a member of the EPRM and is actively involved in the initiative through the sector programme.

Being a member of the Global Battery Alliance, the sector programme is also committed to responsible cobalt sourcing and innovative value creation in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles. The programme also cooperates with the automotive industry's Drive Sustainability initiative.

Another focus of the programme is the transfer of knowledge on sustainability standards. In recent years, a large number of voluntary and binding standards on various raw materials and topics have emerged, but it is difficult to obtain a clear overview of these. This is why the sector programme has been organising the workshop series entitled „Interoperabilität" since 2017. The series is aimed at intensifying the cooperation, interlinking and effectiveness of the various standards. For example, the sector programme published the "Creating Value Together - Interoperability: Opportunities, Challenges and Ways Forward for Metals, Mineral and Mining Sustainability Standards" report together with the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL). The programme also advocates more integration of indigenous interests into sustainability standards and cooperates with the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative to this end. It also initiated the sharing of information on "Responsible Gold" by stakeholders in Germany.

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