The University of Glasgow. © 123RF
The University of Glasgow. © 123RF

University of Glasgow tackles conflict minerals after student pressure

10 March 2016

The University of Glasgow has introduced a supply chain code of conduct following pressure from students to buy only conflict-free products.

The Students’ Representative Council called for the university to support the Enough Project’s Conflict Free Campus Initiative, which asks organisations to make the reduction of the use of conflict minerals a priority in investment and procurement policies.

The University of Glasgow is the biggest university in Europe to take part in this initiative and it joins 52 American and Canadian higher learning institutions. The University of St Andrews and University of Exeter also made conflict-free pledges in 2012.

“Students have fought long and hard to have the university acknowledge this important issue and give serious consideration to the numerous human rights abuses which are linked to the trade in conflict minerals,” said Ruth Brown, campus organiser for the Conflict Free Campus Initiative.

“This includes child labour, violence against women, working conditions that amount to modern slavery and the death of millions of civilians in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Four conflict minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo — tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold — are used in everyday items, from mobile phones and electronic equipment to food containers.

Armed groups generate an estimated $144m each year by trading in these minerals, which is used to finance conflict in the region. Since the early 1990’s more than 5m people have been killed in the conflict.

Amnesty International released a report last year, which highlighted several electronics companies that had failed to eliminate conflict minerals from their supply chains, including Apple, Google, IBM and Amazon.

Brown added: “This statement helps to expose these atrocities, encourages action by other UK universities and, of course, puts pressure on companies to take the necessary steps towards certified ‘conflict-free’ electronics.

"The energy and ambition of Glasgow university students to drive change both locally and globally is incredible, and I hope other universities around the country will follow suit.”

David Newall, Secretary of Court at the university, said a working group set up to consider the students’ demands “recognised the issue of conflict minerals as a significant human rights concern” and it concluded that the “recent introduction into university procurement activity of the Sustainable Procurement Programme (Supply Chain Code of Conduct) was a very positive measure, aimed at ensuring ethical supply chains”.

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