Global Witness has issued a press release accusing the powerful US Chamber of lobbying in the shadows to undermine upcoming SEC enforcement directives covering the control of conflict minerals in electronics industry supply chains.
This law is already catalyzing some positive changes on the ground, including demilitarization of some mining areas in eastern Congo and laudable efforts by certain companies to clean up supply chains............ Despite these efforts, the US Chamber of Commerce is working at all levels to derail the regulations and continue business as usual.
The Chamber of Commerce claims that it is too burdensome for companies to trace their supply chains and has argued for the rule making process to be re-started.
The US Chamber has form on opposing public policy with sustainability objectives, even to the extent that its more progressive members have had to go out of their way disassociate themselves or, like Apple, cancel their membership altogether.
On the issue of conflict minerals regulation Verizon and AT&T have themselves similarly broken cover to lobby the SEC on the record to weaken and slow down regulation. Verizon helpfully suggests:
Verizon recommends delaying the full applicability of the due diligence requirements of the Conflicts Minrerals Report until after fiscal year 2014, to allow DRC zone countries to develop the traceability protocols and related infrastructure required in order to supply to the Conflict Free Smelters. .......... we recommend that the Commission move away from the position (taken in the proposed Rules) that non manufacturing issuers who merely label products they contract for or who have 'any influence over' the manufacturing of applicable products, are nevertheless subject to the Provision. Direct and substantial over the manufacturing of a relevant product should be the test for applicability.
Similarly AT&T lobbied the SEC:
In view of our remoteness from the mines, our poor visibility of conflict minerals content (we have a scant subset of the information our OEM direct suppliers have), and the enormous number of supply chain intermediaries between us and the mines, it is surely 'a bridge too far' to draw resellers into scope.
In contrast - and to their immense credit - AMD, HP and Microsoft have gone on the record with progressive NGOs asking the SEC to implement the new rules without further delay.
So who in the industry is behind the US Chamber's lobby? Surely the companies publicly supporting regulation could not be privately sending the Chamber out to attack the process? It would be unthinkable that any company could by commission or error of omission find itself supporting both sides of this issue. And yet the uncertainty is likely to fuel demand for transparency of the Chamber's support base & motives.
When the Chamber previously set out to oppose regulation on climate change, pressure mounted on businesses to directly clarify whether or not they backed the Chamber. Watch for a similar movement to evolve to pressure companies to also disassociate with the Chamber on conflict minerals.