Emerging Practice in Responsible Supply Chain Management: Closed‐Pipe Supply Chain of Conflict‐Free Minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo

AuthorMiho Taka
Date01 March 2016
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/basr.12080
Published date01 March 2016
Emerging Practice in
Responsible Supply Chain
Management: Closed-Pipe
Supply Chain of Conflict-Free
Minerals from the Democratic
Republic of Congo
MIHO TAKA
ABSTRACT
Minerals originated from eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC) are blamed for financing violent conflict in
the area over the past decade and have been called con-
flict minerals. They vividly demonstrate a key human
rights issue facing responsible supply chain management.
The conflict minerals issue has led to a significant shift in
responsible supply chain management in two ways:
extending producer responsibility to respect human rights
in the total supply chain through establishing traceability
and transparency; and developing legally binding supply
chain responsibility.
This article examines an emerging effort to source
conflict-free minerals using closed-pipe supply chain in the
DRC as a new strategy to respond to the above paradigm
shift. By exploring whether this new strategy can
Miho Taka is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry
University, Priory Street, Coventry CV1 5FB, United Kingdom. E-mail: aa4857@coventry.ac.uk.
V
C2016 Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.,
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK.
Business and Society Review 121:1 37–57
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contribute to conflict prevention in the DRC, this article
argues that the closed-pipe supply chain allows building
long-term relationship with various stakeholders and has
the potential to transform socio-economic structures in
the producing communities, thereby leading to peace-
building in the long run.
INTRODUCTION
In recent years, industries have been increasingly scrutinised
for human rights violation in their extensive supply chains,
such as labor conditions and the use of child labor, mirroring
the global expansion of business operations and growing consumer
activism. Human rights issues have been alerted as one of the top
five strategic management risks (Shtender-Auerbach 2010). Among
various human rights concerns, conflict minerals including tanta-
lum (found in coltan), tin (cassiterite), tungsten, and gold that are
originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the one
which poses a significant challenge for responsible supply chain
management to a wide array of industries.
Electronics industries were the first to be blamed for using con-
flict minerals and questioned their corporate responsibility by civil
society organizations. This was because the rapid development and
spread of small-size, high-tech equipment such as mobile phones
during the 1990s had created supply shortages of tantalum as one
of the essential ingredients for those apparatuses. The supply
shortages encouraged the exploitation of tantalum in eastern DRC
during the second Congolese war between 1998 and 2003. Elec-
tronics industries started responding to the conflict minerals issue
as early as in 2003 by commissioning a study on their corporate
social responsibility (CSR) as an end user of tantalum.
1
Since then, electronics industries have initiated various supply
chain management programmes individually and/or collectively
as they continue to use a large portion of these minerals in their
products. To illustrate this point, they use more than 70 percent
of tantalum supply in making capacitors for electronics (POLI-
NARES 2012). Their supply chain management programmes are
mainly based on voluntary codes of conduct and attempt to
38 BUSINESS AND SOCIETY REVIEW

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