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University is first in UK to adopt conflict minerals policy  

Edinburgh commits to continuing to work collaboratively to eradicate conflict minerals from the goods it buys.

The University of Edinburgh has become the first higher education institution in the UK adopt a formal conflict minerals policy. 

The policy, which was passed on Tuesday 1st March 2016 by the University’s Central Management Group, ultimately seeks to help to protect vulnerable communities by avoiding the use of minerals that fund conflict.

Natural minerals such as tin are essential for the manufacture of mobile phones and computers, and can be sourced responsibly. However, complex international supply chains mean that many electronics purchased by consumers and the University could knowingly or unknowingly contain conflict minerals. 

This new policy gives us a framework within which to work with our suppliers to encourage transparency in supply chains, take action where conflict minerals exist, and advise on more suitable alternatives to support companies with good working practices and ultimately improve the lives of vulnerable communities.

Dave Gorman Director, Department for Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Conflict minerals

Conflict minerals are commonly understood to include tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding Great Lakes Region of Sub-Saharan Africa.  The University seeks to apply a broader definition to include any minerals that have been found to be being used to fund conflict in any part of the world.

It means the University will regularly ask suppliers to report on their supply chains, the risks of conflict minerals being present in the goods they sell, and strategies they are taking to eradicate conflict minerals. As well as embedding this commitment across the University, we will work collaboratively with procurement consortia and the wider public sector.  

Research

The University will also link with research on conflict minerals, promote student engagement through learning and teaching, and raise awareness amongst staff and students making small-scale purchases. This multi-faceted strategy is part of the University’s Living Lab approach to problem solving, aiming to further the institution’s knowledge and action in the area of conflict minerals. Findings and best practice will be shared with other institutions. 

The policy builds on the University’s Sustainable Procurement strategy and founding membership of Electronics Watch, an EU-wide initiative which supports public buyers in calling for fair working conditions in electronics manufacturing. 

Strategic Plan 2012-2016

While the focus of this policy is on conflict minerals, it is recognised that a conflict-free claim does not guarantee that human rights of workers are respected. This policy forms part of a broader approach to socially responsible supply chains, reflected in the University’s Strategic Plan (2012-2016) to ‘make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing’. 

The policy announcement comes during Fairtrade Fortnight, when the University is raising awareness of the meaning of fairness in trade and sustainable procurement. 

Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability Dave Gorman said: “The University is committed to sustainable procurement, from the electronics that we buy in large amounts such as computers, down to individual purchases made by staff.

Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability Dave Gorman said: “The University is committed to sustainable procurement, from the electronics that we buy in large amounts such as computers, down to individual purchases made by staff.

“This new policy gives us a framework within which to work with our suppliers to encourage transparency in supply chains, take action where conflict minerals exist, and advise on more suitable alternatives to support companies with good working practices and ultimately improve the lives of vulnerable communities.”

 

Read the Conflict Minerals Policy

Read about the University’s sustainable procurement commitments 

Read EUSA’s Conflict Minerals statement 

Take part in Fairtrade Fortnight events