December 05, 2014

The Brave New World of a Conflict-Free, End-to-End Supply Chain

Wayne Caccamo

Conflict minerals compliance could mean conflict-free phones.As the first wave of conflict-free products start hitting the market, the supply chain management and conflict minerals compliance bar inches higher.

Intel Corp. earlier this year introduced its first conflict-free microprocessors, and promised to extend its conflict-free program to its entire supply chain and all its product lines. And, a few weeks ago, news reports coming out of England and papers such as The Guardian announced the availability of Fairphone, a crowd-funded conflict-free smartphone that was designed to meet stringent ethical and environmental standards and is being dubbed by some as “the most ethical mobile handset on the market.”and conflict minerals compliance bar inches higher. 

We expect to see more announcements like these in the coming quarters as companies look to carve out competitive advantages from their latest corporate social responsibility program.

Growing awareness about the sourcing and use of gold, tantalum, tin, tungsten and the adoption of track-and-trace mechanisms to help publicly traded comply with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting mandate will fuel these “We did it. We’re conflict-free” press releases.

On the flip side, we also expect to see many other executives scratching their heads and wondering how their competitors got so far so fast with their conflict-free initiatives. The amount of end-to-end supply chain visibility required to comply with the conflict minerals reporting requirements will still cause their share of supply chain management, operational and planning headaches.

Creating the right mix of supply chain visibility and conflict mineral compliance

Finding the right balance between regulatory compliance and program investment is something many companies struggle with on a normal, day-to-day basis. It becomes even more complex when the effort involves engaging with multiple tiers of upstream suppliers you may not have ever heard about and sourcing minerals from a region you only just found on a map because new regulations obliged you to learn about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Savvy companies take a few key steps as they strive to reach conflict-free status and bring conflict-free products to market. They include:

  • Using supply chain best practices to increase visibility and supplier engagement
  • Integrating a supply chain mapping and monitoring solution to improve their conflict minerals compliance track record
  • Adopting a holistic approach where conflict minerals reporting, superior track-and-trace capabilities and supply chain risk management programs are complimentary to each other

A conflict-free supply chain may sound like a mammoth challenge. But, with the appropriate strategy and supply chain management software solutions, you, too, may soon join the ranks of leading companies wowing end-users and competitors with conflict-free product news.

Read our latest whitepaper co-written with leading experts at RGP here on how to get the most out of first year reporting's lessons.

Topics: supply chain visibility, conflict minerals, 3TG, conflict minerals compliance