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Principles for responsible metals supply to electronics

Steven B. Young (Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Canada)
Alberto Fonseca (Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Canada)
Goretty Dias (Department of Geography, University of Guelph, Canada)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 9 March 2010




This paper seeks to critically analyse the list of principles on the extractive phase of the electronics supply chains, proposed for consumer electronic companies, by the non‐governmental campaign MakeITfair. The purpose is to understand whether conformance with these principles could positively influence the socio‐environmental conditions at the mining level.


The paper reviews the literature on incorporation of corporate social responsibility in supply chain management. It then examines how metals are mined, traded and used in electronics, as well as how the mining industry has been managing its own socio‐environmental problems. This information underpins the qualitative discussion of the principles.


MakeITfair's principles were found to be constructive insofar as they draw the attention of electronic companies to their shared responsibility for the problems of distant‐tier suppliers. Nevertheless, some principles may lead to potentially undesired outcomes such as biased prioritization of mining companies or regions, adoption of contentious “standards”, and conflicts concerning the sovereign rights of nations over their natural resources. Overall, the principles stress traceability mechanisms as means of influencing the mining phase of supply chains without considering the costs and benefits of overcoming the complexities involved in the metal trade and other barriers. The paper concludes by highlighting the need to consider additional ways of positively influencing metals supply.

Research limitations/implications

The paper points out specific research priorities in the value chains of metals.


The paper provides a critical analysis of intricate responsibility issues in the supply chain of the world's top electronic companies.



Young, S.B., Fonseca, A. and Dias, G. (2010), "Principles for responsible metals supply to electronics", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 126-142.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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