Edinburgh university breaks new ground by opposing conflict minerals

A campaign to combat the trade in scarce and valuable minerals to finance wars is being backed by the University of Edinburgh, the first in the UK to ask suppliers to detail how they source their raw materials

Edinburgh university is to cut the use of so-called conflict minerals in goods it buys, with a promise to search out alternatives if a product has raw materials directly linked to wars in the developing world.

Under the policy – the first of its kind for a UK higher education institution – Edinburgh will require its suppliers to provide information on where they source metals such as tin, gold and tungsten in their products.

One of our main aims is to raise awareness among our staff and students. But over time we also want to think about how our academics can conduct research and shine a light on this issue.

We’ll also be looking at what we can do with regard to our contracts and procurement. These minerals are widespread within things like PCs, laptops, mobile phones and tablet devices, and we’ll be asking our suppliers whether they can give us assurances about where they’re sourcing their materials from, and if not, what they’ll do to ensure that they can.

If you think of the scale of a university, Edinburgh’s annual turnover is around £850m. Our combined total of staff and students is approaching 50,000 people. In that sense we’re a large organisation with the opportunity to make quite a large impact.

As a single buyer, it’s difficult to claim too much. But we’re hopeful that others will take up this issue and there’ll be a growing band of us.

Behavioural change can certainly have a result. Everyone who’s buying these products has a responsibility to ask questions, and once you do that you can start to scrutinise trading norms and supply chains.

Our investigations over a decade have found that natural resources fund some of the most egregious human rights abuses and conflicts in the world. There are armed groups and elements of national armies using these materials to fund their own fighting objectives rather than for the benefit of the people or the development of countries’ infrastructure.

People working in these mines face extremely difficult working conditions, but for many people there’s no other option.

The solution isn’t about avoiding countries like the DRC or the Central African Repulic, it’s about making sure that companies have the right checks in place to improve conditions. It’s about making sure they’ve undertaken a process of due dilligence and can spot the red flags that can indicate abuses.

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from Sustainable development | The Guardian
via http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/scotland-blog/2016/mar/30/edinburgh-university-breaks-new-ground-by-opposing-conflict-minerals

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