Electronics companies are not making a big enough effort to combat child labour in gold mining. This is the conclusion of a survey by SOMO commissioned by Stop Child Labour. The electronics industry is the third largest buyer of gold in the world. Only two companies, the Dutch Fairphone and the multinational Microsoft show that they are actively involved in gold mining initiatives in which the eradication of child labour is included. Not even one of the electronics companies knows exactly where the gold comes from and whether child labour occurs in these mines.
However, forced by American legislation, electronics companies are making an effort when it comes to avoiding the use of conflict minerals in their products. With this, the industry shows that they are capable of bringing about change. Unfortunately, eradicating child labour when it comes to mining minerals is not properly on their radar yet. Only Apple, Acer and again Fairphone have additional policies against child labour that go beyond the industry standard. However, in practice the monitoring of these codes of conduct does not reach the gold mining.
It is striking to see that manufacturers of parts in particular are doing very little against child labour, and the consumer brand Ericsson is not showing much activity either.
When we compare the Dutch companies that took part in this survey, there are significant differences. Fairphone is clearly leading, and it seems that NXP only follows the industry. Philips has been active for a while now with its ‘conflict free tin initiative’ (CFTI) and aims to make mining more sustainable. When it comes to gold mining, Philips is also actively involved in several initiatives.
A duty to care
According to international guidelines, companies should carry out due diligence in their entire supply chain. “This means that companies must investigate where gold comes from, which stakeholders are operating in their supply chain and what the risks of malpractice are. Any risks and human rights violations, including child labour, then need to be addressed,” says Sofie Ovaa, Programme Manager of Stop Child Labour.
A mobile phone should not only be manufactured ‘child labour free’, but the resources should also be mined and processed without child labour. Still, there is not even one electronics company that knows exactly where the gold in their production lines comes from and whether this has been mined by child labourers. This is why Stop Child Labour is calling on companies to make a serious effort to combat child labour in their supply chain. Consumers can sign a petition to support this campaign.
1 million children are working in gold mining
More than one million children are working in gold mining around the world. The gold that they mine may well end up in the electronics factories that use it to produce mobile phones, computers and other consumer electronics.
“As many as 67.9% of the Dutch citizens believe that it should be prohibited to produce electronics products with child labour. And it should not be allowed to use resources that are mined and processed by child labourers. What’s more, at least half of the Dutch population is prepared to start paying more for products containing child labour free gold. Stop Child Labour is calling on the electronics industry to make a real effort to achieve fair gold mining. And to jointly work towards a plan for improving this situation,” according to Sofie Ovaa.