Conflict Minerals

The Responsible Mica Initiative Gets Serious About Supply Chain Mapping [Interview]

Source: Reuters 2016

Source: Reuters 2016

Sourcemap’s mission is to map the world’s supply chains, and as part of that mission, we engage with leading practitioners of supply chain transparency to bring attention to their issues and approaches. We start this series with Fanny Fremont, Executive Director of the Responsible Mica Initiative (RMI). RMI is a non-profit organization committed to establishing a fair, responsible and sustainable mica supply chain in the states of Jharkhand and Bihar in India that will eliminate unacceptable working conditions and eradicate child labour by 2022. RMI currently has 55 members including companies like L’Oreal, Merck, Shiseido, Coty, BASF, LVMH, PPG and many more.

Mica has rightfully earned the nickname ‘nature’s glitter’ because it’s a natural mineral used to add sparkle to everything including paints, furniture, automobiles, plastic, electronics, and cosmetics, among others. Despite the mineral’s gleaming properties, the dark side of Mica begins at the source. As much as 25%(*) of the world’s mica is extracted from informal mines in India where working conditions are harsh and systemic problems endure, including child labor. Sourcemap’s Director of Business Development Juliette Barre sat down with Fanny to shine some light on the issues facing the mica supply chain.
 

JB: Can you tell me how the Responsible Mica Initiative came about?

FF: The RMI was officially created in January 2017, building on several existing individual initiatives regarding mica mining in India, with the ambition of aligning the efforts of all the stakeholders, building common standards and programs and scaling up impact from the mines to the end-users. The RMI uses a multi-stakeholder and holistic approach that engages companies, civil society organizations, industry associations, and governments to develop and implement three integrated program pillars that will establish responsible workplace standards, empower local communities and establish a legal framework for the mica sector. That’s to us the only way to leverage a positive impact on local communities, children and their environment, and to drive a long-lasting change.

JB: Issues around Mica aren't new, but lately we’ve been hearing more about them in the news. Why do you think that is?

FF: I guess it’s a combination of growing public awareness versus issues linked to mica sourcing and request for increased transparency; of development of hard and soft regulations focusing on respect of human rights within supply chains - including of minerals supply chains; and - I hope - of our efforts as Responsible Mica Initiative to raise awareness and federate different stakeholders around our mission and activities.

JB: Based on your experience and work with your members, what do you think are the three biggest challenges regarding Mica traceability at the moment?

FF: The 3 main challenges we are facing are (i) the mapping as a pre-requisite, (ii) the lack of clear legal framework regarding mica collection in India, and (iii) the cost. For mica-using industries like automotive or electronics, components using mica can be numerous and supply chains complex. Finding out who are the exact tiers 1, 2, 3… suppliers till the mica mines is already a challenge. Then, to date, feedback from the field indicated that no single mine in Jharkhand and in Bihar (India) can be considered legal, meaning with a valid government license. Based on this, our assumption is that it would be very complicated to have very upstream actors entering identification and volume information into a shared tool. And finally, mica is a low-value mineral in comparison to gold or even other minerals. Bearing the costs of new traceability technologies could represent a barrier to some actors if the ROI is unclear.

JB: What are the frameworks and/or best practices available to the private sector at the moment?

FF: Right after its creation in January 2017, the RMI started work to develop responsible workplace standards which provide a central resource for preventing child labor and improving overall working conditions at mica processors and mines in India. Workplace standards address five dimensions of operations at mines and processors: legal requirements, social obligations, Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) provisions, economic requirements, and environmental standards. To my knowledge, there is no other equivalent standard focusing on mica.

JB: What first step(s) should any company using mica start implementing?

FF: The first step would be to map their mica uses, and right after that, take action. Risks linked to mica sourcing and processing activities have already been identified and assessed, and there is an urgent need for action. We are talking about the worst forms of child labor and globally harsh working conditions. I would, of course, encourage joining forces with the Responsible Mica Initiative through active membership.

More information about RMI can be found at their website: https://www.responsible-mica-initiative.com/

For information about tracing mica in your supply chain, find out how Sourcemap can help: https://www.sourcemap.com/traceability-1

References:

(*) https://www.responsible-mica-initiative.com/the-mica-issue.html

https://www.somo.nl/beauty-and-a-beast/ 


 

Responsible Jewelry = Traceable Jewelry

When the Kimberley Scheme for conflict-free diamonds was introduced in 2003, it was one of the earliest traceability programs in ethical sourcing. But bagging and tagging rough stones is no longer the best practice: today some producers laser-etch polished stones with unique serial numbers. What about rough and colored stones? Old-fashioned record-keeping is still the norm for much of the jewelry industry: paper ledgers, spreadsheets, proprietary databases. These systems are so shoddy some shipments are being turned away from US ports for missing proof of origin. Without a digital supply chain, there are few ways to verify the source of stones. Add that to the complexity in tracking precious metals from areas at risk of conflict, and it’s clear the time has come for the jewelry industry to adopt mine-to-retail traceability for every gem, every metal ingot it purchases.

Using technology that's already proven in remote supply chains, Sourcemap is able to track and trace any number of transactions across the end-to-end supply chain. A new workflow management platform allows the data to be automatically analyzed for anomalies, approved and audited. It can even provide item-level traceability to the end customer. Sourcemap is the all-in-one due diligence solution for the jewelry sector. Click below to download our free resource on implementing responsible sourcing.

Sourcemap at the 13th Forum on Responsible Minerals

Responsible gems and minerals are a hot topic, with over 80,000 artisanal miners being registered into responsible supply chains in the past two years alone. But some reports have claimed that shifts in regulation have had an overall negative impact on miners’ earnings and on the commercial viability of some local traders and exporters.

Eight years ago the OECD published its Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals, an international framework for companies to avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral purchasing practices. The Dodd Frank Act (US) and the new EU regulation on conflict minerals refer to the OECD's guidance as a best practice in responsible minerals sourcing.

Last week, the Sourcemap team joined more than 900 attendees at the OECD's 13th Forum on Responsible Minerals in Paris. Here is what we learned:

  • The London Metal Exchange introduced mandatory responsible sourcing requirements that will be implemented by 2022.

  • The World Bank launched the first annual report on the State of ASM: 2019 State of the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector.

  • The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) revised its Code of Practices to include due diligence requirements based on the OECD Guidance.

  • The World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) announced a new Blue Book providing guidance for responsible sourcing in the jewellery sector.

  • Ulula and the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) published a report assessing the impact of due diligence programmes on mining communities in the eastern provinces of the DRC.

  • Several companies announced their transparency and traceability goals for gems and minerals.

The OECD was an important event for Sourcemap too, as we introduced our new Responsible Mineral Platform to help companies implement supply chain due diligence when it comes to responsible mineral sourcing. The platform lets companies track any mineral down to the mine through an automated online process. It works by connecting the entire supply chain down to the smelters and mines, verifying transactions, monitoring performance and managing improvement plans toward corporate and regulatory targets. The Responsible Minerals Platform even lets companies monitor worker livelihoods and the impact your responsible sourcing programs are having on local communities (access to education, miner wages, child labor etc.) To find out more, visit Sourcemap's free responsible mineral sourcing resource here.



Keep up with the new OECD guidance on Conflict Minerals with Sourcemap's Responsible Minerals Platform

Dodd-Frank conflict minerals disclosure ushered in supply chain transparency law, and now it's been superseded by the new EU requirements. What's changed? Transparency isn't enough: companies have to show that they perform due diligence on their extended conflict minerals supply chain, ensuring that risk is monitored and improvement plans are put in place. The best practice is to follow the OECD's guidance - something Sourcemap can do out-of-the-box. Download our free brochure and get in touch to implement best-in-class due diligence practices, for now and for the future. Click the link below: