European Parliament votes for mandatory regulations on conflict minerals
MEPs vote in favour of mandatory compliance for all
Yesterday MEPs in the European Parliament voted to overturn the European Commission's proposals and requested mandatory compliance for “all importers” sourcing in conflict areas.
In a surprising and historical result for campaigners and Green MEPs the EU Parliament also agreed to include “downstream” companies.
Crucially, the ruling will mean that up to 880,000 EU firms that use tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold in manufacturing consumer products, will be obliged to provide information on steps they have taken to identify and address risks in their supply chains for the minerals and metals concerned.
The rules approved by Parliament were more strict than those proposed by the European Commission, which favoured less stringent, voluntary self-certification system.
Earlier this week Ethical Consumer and over 150 rights groups had called on Parliament to ensure that the proposed laws had meaningful impact.
The EU Supply-Chain Due Diligence standards will be based on the OECD Due Diligence Guidelines recommendations, which are designed to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral purchases from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. The same guidelines have been used as the basis for the US reporting requirements on conflict minerals.
The regulations will not just be restricted to the conflict prone region of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the surrounding countries. The draft law defines “conflict-affected and high-risk areas” as those in a state of armed conflict, with widespread violence, the collapse of civil infrastructure, fragile post-conflict areas and areas of weak or non-existent governance and security, characterised by "widespread and systematic violations of human rights".
Judith Sargentini, a Dutch MEP who drafted an earlier European Parliament report calling on binding transparency rules said: “The European Parliament has today set out its stall by voting for binding transparency rules for all companies and we will now work to convince EU governments to ensure this is reflected in the final legislation. We need to ensure these rules go as far as possible to prevent conflict minerals from entering the EU market in goods and everyday products.”
While the vote in favour of mandatory compliance will be taken as a positive step for ensuring that the purchasing of minerals is not contributing to conflict or human rights abuses, it will be some time before we see any company actually reporting. The next steps will see the European Parliament enter into negotiations with Member States and European Council to find an agreement on the law.
Lucy Graham, legal advisor in Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights team said in a press release: “The European Parliament has sent a clear signal. European firms cannot turn a blind eye to the risk their operations contribute to human rights abuses abroad, if the European Council follows suit, this law would represent a sea change in what is expected of companies when the minerals in their products come from countries driven by conflict.”