Businesses warned over supply chains as Edinburgh University goes conflict mineral free

The University of Edinburgh has put pressure on its electronic suppliers, after it became the first higher education institution in the UK to ban the purchasing of supplies that contain controversial 'conflict minerals'.

The University will be making substantial efforts to avoid conflict materials from Africa

The University will be making substantial efforts to avoid conflict materials from Africa

The policy – primarily aimed at supply chains associated with the financing wars in Africa – will see the University seek alternative substances to minerals such as gold, tin and tungsten that are often used to produce electronic devices such as computers and mobile phones.

The University’s 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.”

While the University will be making substantial efforts to avoid conflict materials from Africa, the policy will also spread to any ‘unethical’ supply chains across the globe.

The new pledge could make good reading for Intel, which announced a six-year plan to ensure that all of the raw materials and metals needed for production are conflict free.

However the complexity and transparency issues around international supply chains are proving problematic for purchasing businesses and institutions. Supply chain traceability was recently ranked in the top 10 issues that affect sustainable policies, according to CSR professionals.

Harsh lessons

The conflict free pledge is the latest example of higher education ramping up efforts to introduce sustainability into the education sector.

Despite lagging behind on emission targets and failing to prioritise sustainability, universities have been urged to play their part in removing a £100m 'tip of the iceberg' fossil fuel fund and divest assets into renewable technology.

Last month saw universities champion sustainable practices, albeit temporarily, as part of national 'Go Green Week' - a week dedicated to raising awareness on tackling climate issues.

Last week, Cranfield University launched the world's first circular economy Master's degree in partnership with the Ellen McArthur Foundation, which values the EU circular economy at €1.8trn.

Matt Mace


Tags

education | supply chain | traceability | universities | ethics

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CSR & ethics
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