It’s taken a while, but the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has set a date to vote on rules that could require many companies to disclose if their products include slavery-tainted raw materials.
The well-known Dodd-Frank financial reform act got this ball rolling, by including a lesser-known section called the DRC Conflict Minerals Provision (Section 1502). It requires companies regulated by the SEC to investigate their supply chains and disclose if their products contain minerals from conflict areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or surrounding areas.
This is a milestone in corporate supply chain transparency. So-called “conflict minerals” from Congo are often mined by slaves. Free the Slaves has conducted groundbreaking research to document the Congo connection to slavery.
Now, after more than a year’s delay, the SEC will vote on specific rules that companies must follow to comply with the new law, ensuring that the natural resources of developing nations benefit ordinary citizens rather than corrupt officials or armed groups.
In June, 58 members of Congress issued a bipartisan letter urging the SEC to release the final rules, stating: “The commission has had more than enough time to consider and respond to all of the substantive comments from industry, civil society, investors, and others. This issue is too serious to allow further delay.”
Free the Slaves, along with our partners in the DRC and in the U.S., have repeatedly urged the SEC to release the rules without delay. Our joint statement describes the law as having “enormous potential to transform the conflict in eastern Congo,” and urges that “while the DRC government must take up its responsibility to protect civilians and establish governance and infrastructure, U.S. based companies and consumers also have a crucial role.”
Mark your calendars. The SEC is set to vote on August 22nd.