When it comes to supply chain management, sometimes company reputation is at stake just as much as overall efficiency. Apple learned that the hard way with its numerous issues with iPhone maker Foxconn in the public sphere. The tech giant, though, isn’t looking to make the same mistake twice.

Apple has announced that its suppliers do not secure the mineral tantalum from sources that fund violent armed groups. In its 2014 Supplier Responsibility report released on Feb. 12, Apple says its tantalum has been verified by third party auditors to be “conflict free.”

Tantalum, along with gold, tin and tungsten, are primary components in many electronic devices. The metals have caused worry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because some mines in the region are believed to be funding militant groups through mineral sales.

The company says it had success pressuring its tantalum suppliers into a third party because Apple is the leading user of the metal worldwide. Because Apple does not have as much financial leverage with smelters of gold, tin and tungsten, however, the majority of those firms have not agreed to an audit.

“We’re pushing hard on the other minerals – tin, tungsten and gold – to make sure that we have a critical mass of smelters so we can really change the situation on the ground in the DRC,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, said according to the New York Times.

Currently, Apple has no chosen to leave the region entirely; any move would devastate the DRC’s economy. Instead, the NYT reports, Apple is working with its auditors to identify mines that are not funding militant groups.

Issues within the supply chain are becoming an increasing concern for C-suites. According to a recent study by Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty, 43 percent of companies cited business interruption and supply chain risk as one of the three most important risks for businesses.


Apple is a mover and shaker in the legal sphere, and InsideCounsel has their moves covered:

IP: The perfect storm that led to the rise of design patents

Apple pushes back against patent troll litigation

German licensing firm accuses Apple of $2 billion in patent damages

Patent troll tackles Apple’s iPad Air