In a mineral procurement report released Thursday, Apple said 18 smelters and refineries that would not participate in third-party audits in 2019 were removed from their supply chains, bringing the audit participation rate to 100 percent for the fifth year in a row,media outlet AppleInsider reported. In information disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple detailed its responsible sourcing of so-called conflict minerals.
Tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold (3TG) and other minerals are used in iPhones, iPads, Macs, iPod touch, Apple TV, Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, Apple Card, Beats products and all Apple brand accessories. Like other U.S. companies, Apple is working on procurement regulations designed to remove conflict minerals from its supply chain. According to the definition of the law, conflict minerals include 3TG and other common minerals produced in mining areas in areas controlled by non-governmental military groups or non-military factions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
By the end of 2019, Apple found that none of its 267 recognized smelters and refineries had directly or indirectly financed 3TGs from armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or neighbouring countries. Of these 267 entities, 24 were procured from or near by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Apple partnered with 323 smelters and refiners in early 2019, but excluded 36 because of supplier errors or unintentional reports. Apple then requested the removal of 18 smelters and refineries because they did not meet scheduled standards, including participation in third-party audits, corrective action plans or meeting Apple supplier codes and requirements. Two other companies went out of business.
Members of Apple’s supply chain must comply with the Company’s Supplier Code of Conduct and the Supplier Responsible Materials Standard, which requires suppliers to “engage with smelters and refiners to assess and identify risks other than conflict, including social, environmental, and human rights risks.” Apple, together with the standard OECD Due Diligence Guidelines, has formed a supplier responsibility team that integrates additional safeguards into its Code of Conduct and has regular contact with suppliers. The company also supports and assists in the development of industry standards for responsible sourcing and promotes field reporting through various independent programs.
Apple’s efforts to reduce conflict minerals are part of a responsible, larger material procurement program. The tech giant has long touted its environmental projects and in 2017 set a goal of relying solely on recyclable and renewable minerals and materials throughout its product line. Apple says 3TG is one of the 14 materials that the project prioritizes.