Pollution, child labour and high death rates in the mines were among the problems exposed by makeITfair last year in mining areas that supply minerals to the electronics industry. Under pressure from the makeITfair campaign, the companies - which had earlier refused to take responsibility for the violation of environmental and human rights -, have agreed to improve these conditions.
At the first round table meeting in Brussels in January 2008, organised by makeITfair, electronics companies met with NGOs, trade unions, and researchers from various countries to discuss their responsibility to take action. The first meeting was highly successful, because the electronics companies acknowledged that the electronics industry has the leverage for change, and the dialogue between business and NGOs will continue. Furthermore, a discussion took place to see how joint steps can be taken. Some of the companies seemed willing to take responsibility for their actions, but the question remained: how?
Since then, makeITfair has presented a List of Principles that describes what the EU-funded campaign expects electronics companies to do and to adhere to. The list was drawn up in cooperation with several NGOs. The industry responded by presenting its own research study that stressed the industry’s opportunities “to influence social and environmental performance in mining and metals production”. The industry recommended, for example, that the electronics sector collaborate with existing multistakeholder initiatives and end-use sectors. Some companies – such as HP and Samsung - have also engaged in individual efforts to trace the metals that they use.
At the second Round Table, the electronics industry (organised in the CSR business initiatives EICC and GeSI) will describe what the industry has accomplished during recent months, and present their “extractive goals” for 2009. This Round Table meeting will take place on November 19 in Washington DC. The aim is to collect feedback from invited NGOs as well as from representatives of mining initiatives and other end-use sectors. Various stakeholders are therefore being brought together for the meeting. These include representatives from electronics companies, consumer organisations, NGOs active in this field, but also representatives from developing countries, including the southern partners involved in the project. At this meeting, makeITfair will be stressing the urgent need for concrete action to take place to improve the lives of miners in the South.
In Washington, youth organisation Time to Turn will be handing over their collected signatures, along with a short movie, to the representatives from mobile phone and electronics products in Washington to show the involvement of Dutch youngsters in the sustainable development of electronics. The movie is about the campaign Time to Turn organised on 25 October in Delft, The Netherlands. They organised a day without mobile phones, to make youngsters aware of the unfair production of metals in mobile phones.